The retail industry in the United States has long been criticized for paying wages that no one can realistically live off of. Many retail workers must work multiple jobs and struggle to get ahead in their careers. One of the greatest challenges that retail workers face is that those who want to get ahead by attending college to earn an advanced degree really can't afford it. With rising tuition costs and increases in living expenses, earning a college degree while working in the retail industry has become a very, very challenging task. For this reason, one company has decided to offer an innovative solution to this problem; the Starbucks college tuition reimbursement program provides up to two years of paid college tuition.
On their website, Starbucks acknowledges that more than 70% of their employees are students or aspiring students. Therefore, the company will roll out this multi-million dollar Starbucks college investment in the fall of 2014. The program allows employees who have not yet earned a bachelors degree to attend Arizona State University's online degree program to finish a bachelor's degree with full college tuition reimbursement. Those beginning college will be able to qualify for up to two years worth of benefits.
Starbucks explains this on their website:
"Partners [employees] admitted as a junior or senior, according to ASU's admission requirements, will earn full tuition reimbursement for each year of coursework they complete toward a bachelor's degree. Freshmen and sophomores will receive a partial scholarship and need-based financial aid toward the foundational work of completing their degree. Partners will have no commitment to remain at Starbucks past graduation."
According to CNN, this benefit will be offered to both full- and part-time employees and is equal to about $30,000 per employee. Students will be able to choose from more than 40 different undergraduate degrees in a number of fields.
But the Starbucks college tuition reimbursement program isn't the first time that Starbucks has been innovative in their approach to employees. The CEO, Howard Schultz has been one of the few in the retail industry to back minimum wage increases. Further, Starbucks has continued to offer health insurance benefits to both full- and part-time employees, despite the industry trend to rely on Obamacare for employee health insurance.
With the challenges facing the retail industry today, it is great to see a major employer of college students become innovative in their approach to human capital. Now if only more employers would follow the lead set by Starbucks.
What do you think of the Starbucks college tuition reimbursement plan?