In as bold a move as its strongest blend, coffee powerhouse Starbucks late Monday upped the ante to its college degree program the company first unveiled last summer.
The program now provides a more robust package for employees, offering a full four-year tuition plan for both full- and part-time employees working at least 20 hours, in addition to faster tuition reimbursement.
The program is a partnership with Arizona State University and provides full tuition coverage for a bachelor's degree though ASU's online program. Nearly 2,000 employees have successfully enrolled to date, Starbucks says, and the company has committed to investing $250 million or more to help at least 25,000 employees graduate within the next 10 years.
"Everyone deserves a chance at the American dream," said Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks. "The unfortunate reality is that too many Americans can no longer afford a college degree, particularly disadvantaged young people, and others are saddled with burdensome education debt. By giving our partners access to four years of full tuition coverage, we will provide them a critical tool for lifelong opportunity.
Also see: Do education programs pay off?
The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014-2015 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges and $22,958 for out-of-state residents attending public universities, according to the College Board.
ASU president Michael Crow called the tuition program a powerful demonstration of what is possible when an enlightened and innovative corporation joins forces with a forward-thinking research university.
Last summer, the program initially provided employees full tuition reimbursement if they enroll in ASU's online program as juniors or seniors. Freshmen and sophomores would receive a partial scholarship and needs-based financial aid toward the foundational work of completing their degree.
This program is a clear expression of Starbucks commitment to its partners and ASUs continuing mission to provide access to higher education to all qualified students, Crow added.
In addition, Starbucks says it has set a three year goal to hiring 10,000 Opportunity Youth, a population of nearly six million disconnected youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not working or in school.
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