Starbucks to Offer Some Workers Free College Tuition

The Seattle-based coffee giant is offering tuition breaks for freshman and sophomore college students and complete tuition reimbursement for juniors and seniors.   

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Starbucks logo 

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As the debate over minimum wage rages on, Starbucks has upped the ante, announcing a program that will help baristas earn online college degrees.

According to the Associated Press, the Seattle-based coffee company will partner with Arizona State University in making the program available to 135,000 U.S. workers who work at least 20 hours a week. "Employees will be able to choose from a number of educational programs, and won't be required to stay at Starbucks after earning the degree," AP reports.

Starbucks and ASU would offer freshmen and sophomores scholarships that would greatly reduce their tuition cost, and for juniors and seniors, Starbucks would "reimburse any money that workers pay out of pocket," meaning that those employees with two years of college completed could finish the last two years at no cost.

Three hundred and forty Starbucks employees and their families will join Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Monday at the Times Center in New York City, where he will announce the new program. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will also be in attendance, AP reports.

Starbucks spokeswoman Laurel Harper told AP that the current program, which reimburses up to $1,000 a year at City University of Seattle or at Stayer University, would be phased out by 2015. Harper noted that this new program is more generous and deals specifically with "high college dropout rates, given the financial struggles many face in finishing college," AP reports.

The Seattle coffee company isn't sure, at this stage, how many of its workers might apply for the program or how much the program may cost, but AP notes that "tuition for an online degree at ASU is about $10,000 a year."

Starbucks' other chains, including Teavana tea shops and Seattle's Best, would also be able to take part in the new program.

Read more at the Associated Press.