Corporate Skeptics: Starbucks and Discounted Tuition

By KLNMAX (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about Starbucks offering its employees discounted tuition to Arizona State for an online degree. While this may seem like an incredibly selfless thing for a corporation to do, it turns out that Starbucks won’t be footing much, if any, of the bill.

“Initially, Starbucks said that workers would be able to offset the costs through an upfront scholarship it was providing with Arizona State, but declined to say exactly how much of the cost it was shouldering. The chain estimated that the scholarship would average about $6,500 over two years to cover tuition of about $20,000.

Following the announcement, however, Arizona State University president Michael Crow told The Chronicle of Higher Education that Starbucks is not contributing any money toward the scholarship. Instead, Arizona State will essentially charge workers less than the sticker price for online tuition. Much of the remainder would likely be covered by federal aid since most Starbucks workers don’t earn a lot of money.”

According to AlterNet:

“Right now, about 70% of Starbucks workers are either trying to complete a college degree or want to, making a tuition-reimbursement program seem like an excellent fit for Starbucks “partners” (their empowering name for workers). More than 130,000 staffers currently clocking at least 20 hours per week might qualify for the plan, through which they could earn their degrees from ASU’s burgeoning online undergraduate program.

For individual students, the mechanics of the program may be state-of-the-art, but the finances are surprisingly conventional. For the first two years of their education, Starbucks students will qualify for a small scholarship from ASU, but the balance of their tuition payments will have to come from loans and students’ own financial resources (aka their take-home pay as baristas). Students who are finishing up the final portion of their coursework – the equivalent of their junior and senior years – will be reimbursed for about $480 to $540 per credit, which is much pricier than the typical community college tuition.”

“Of course, it’s not a bad thing for companies to offer an education benefit to employees. But perhaps a less convoluted way for Starbucks to make college affordable would be to pay its workers enough to enable them to actually afford tuition. Of course, then Starbucks wouldn’t be able to brand itself as an educational game-changer: it would just be a decent place to work.”

Sure, it’s always a plus for companies to provide employees with some semblance of higher education opportunities, but I’m afraid that Starbucks’ new ploy isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. It certainly doesn’t alleviate the financial burdens most students face.

Candice Choi, “Starbucks degree program not as simple as it seems,”

Michelle Chen, “Why Starbucks Baristas Should Be Wary of the Education the Company Is Offering Them,” AlterNet

26 Comments on "Corporate Skeptics: Starbucks and Discounted Tuition"

  1. Rus Archer | Jun 25, 2014 at 2:16 pm |

    save on the art degree
    you’re just gonna end up working at starbucks anyway

    • Liam_McGonagle | Jun 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm |

      It really is hard to recommend anything other than a business, engineering or law degree, from the point of view of expected financial payback.

      But on the other hand, our overriding cultural/economic problem is vanishing horizons. Everyone’s trying to bank on the sure thing, which step by step gradually reduces the number of players and the quality and variety of their enterprise to ideas that have been thoroughly worked over and exhausted.

      We really do need more artists, etc. than CFAs. But when you’re pitching in front of a bunch of *ssholes who can’t think beyond next quarter (i.e., us), you’re not likely to get too far.

      • I’ve read that business degrees are about as worthless as liberal arts degrees. Simply because people who don’t know what they want to do, usually go into business and that business degrees are often generic.

        In fact, I’ve heard that some employers would rather interview a liberal arts graduate than a business simply because of their analytical/deduction skills. Something that isn’t necessarily taught in “business” school.

        • Ted Heistman | Jun 25, 2014 at 4:54 pm |

          He think he is right about engineering degrees though.

          • In a top school, almost any degree will pay off more than a community or state school. Engineering, software, web design, and degrees like that are degrees which still provide for good job prospects.

            Not being an artist despite having an art degree, not being a business guru despite having a business degree can apply to almost any discipline. And when I refer to liberal arts, I don’t mean fine arts. Liberal arts provide a degree of study in almost every academic aspect. It’s a very well rounded discipline, which is why I often find it favored over traditional business degrees.

          • Ted Heistman | Jun 25, 2014 at 6:59 pm |

            yeah, I am with you on that.

        • mannyfurious | Jun 25, 2014 at 11:44 pm |

          Not to mention the glut of literal idiots running around with Business degrees and MBAs. Literally any moron who can read at a 5th grade level whose only goal in life is to “make money, bro” goes to school for business. I have two cousins with MBAs from some candy-assed online school who have pissed away a minor fortune trying to get their Boxing apparel (mostly t-shirts) business off the ground. Once they finished their degrees they were so sure they were suddenly endowed with the ability to become rich. I can’t decide if it’s funny or tragic.

          • Adam's Shadow | Jun 26, 2014 at 1:00 am |

            I see more MBAs trying to run a local Applebee’s or some bullshit corporate franchise than anything else these days; I say trying because the turnover rate for management is only a little better than the employees for a lot of chain stores, especially restaurants. They get all flushed with success coming out of school, and land a job managing a Denny’s or Big 5, and totally get in over their heads.

          • PrimateZero | Jun 26, 2014 at 11:41 am |

            It’s funny and tragic.

        • Liam_McGonagle | Jun 26, 2014 at 9:47 am |

          Well, it has been getting gradually worse over the last 40 years. You are correct now in saying that it’s more about who you know than what you know (i.e., your school’s prestige and networking opportunities).

          But I see no evidence that suits really give a sh*t about the arts, or even have a basic understanding of them.

      • Also law degrees are virtually worthless. So many lawyers can’t find jobs because there are way too many of them.

        • Liam_McGonagle | Jun 26, 2014 at 9:49 am |

          Yes–I almost regretted putting that one in the list. But I think the general point that the available career tracks are narrowing to a ridiculous degree is still supported by the statement, even if it could have been articulated better.

      • Medicine and hospitality continue to show strong growth potential. Engineering maybe, but business and law only hold true if one has a network that can be leveraged post grad (actually quite similar to art in that respect).

        But then, Education and Market Forces aren’t exactly a match made in the Ivory Tower.

        As for artists, I wish we could go all Atlas Shrugged on y’all muthafuckas. But no one left behind would understand what was missing until the nukes were raining down, so…

      • Rus Archer | Jun 26, 2014 at 12:31 pm |

        feels entirely surrounded by “artists”
        but you don’t need a degree for that
        by all means, get educated
        get creative
        2014 kicked in 6 months ago
        learn to use the innarwebz
        and pubic liberries

        • the degree is an unfortunate benchmark of attainment held over from a steaming pile of systemic failure

          while it’s true

          most “artists”
          “simply” require self-discipline and self-motivation
          rather than duh art skool
          the failure lies not in “art education”
          but in general “education”

          if you can find
          Alicia Keys private recording studio
          on duh interwebz
          and use it from the public library
          rock on

          • Rus Archer | Jun 26, 2014 at 3:12 pm |

            what would i need ak’s anything for?
            i have my own recording studio
            and have studied with and played with people i actually respect

          • It’s less about duh name brand
            and more duh sound

            You got a vintage LFRC and studio designed by the guy who built Electric Ladyland?

          • Rus Archer | Jun 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm |

            and jimi didn’t have what i have

            how does any of that have anything to do with going in debt for a worthless piece of paper?
            or the ability to use available resources to educate yourself?

          • and jimi didn’t have what i have

            With respect, I’m pretty sure what Jimi had and what you have don’t belong in the same zip code.

            how does any of that have anything to do with going in debt for a worthless piece of paper?
            or the ability to use available resources to educate yourself?

            Not everything that’s worth knowing can be learned via the internet or public library.
            If you have to go into debt, at least pick something that you can’t learn on your own.

            But you are correct, the paper is worthless. When you minimize the debate to those parameters, that’s true for almost every profession and degree.

    • Gjallarbru | Jun 25, 2014 at 3:03 pm |

      Most university degree aren’t worth as much as they cost, and certainly don’t hold as much worth as they used to. Degrees certainly don’t represent any certainty of employment.

  2. BuzzCoastin | Jun 25, 2014 at 3:41 pm |

    you don’t need a college degree to know
    that 5 bucks for a cup of coffee is a ripoff
    and that Starbucks is really Ahab’s Pequod

  3. Ted Heistman | Jun 25, 2014 at 7:01 pm |

    I guess in a way its a win/win.

    I kind of see both sides of this. I see the Social side of the societal costs of not having a living wage, but I also understand how businesses operate and what they are trying to do. They aren’t necessarily trying to be a benevolent nonprofit organization.

  4. mannyfurious | Jun 25, 2014 at 11:40 pm |

    They won’t have to foot too large of a bill either way, because half of their employees already have BAs. Usually in art or English or something….

  5. Honestly, I knew it was a joke when I read: Arizona State University

  6. LouisaMorrisonuda | Jun 26, 2014 at 5:30 am |

    my Aunty
    Allison recently got a nice 6 month old Jaguar by working from a macbook.this website C­a­s­h­d­u­t­i­e­s­.­C­O­M­

  7. I would have been really impressed had it been reduced tuition at any state university but just one online university? Yawn. More misleading corporate hype.

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