Starbucks will give free college tuition to thousands of employees.
The coffee chain is partnering with Arizona State University to allow Starbucks employees to get degrees through the university's highly-acclaimed online degree program.
Tuition will be completely free for juniors and seniors. For freshmen and sophomores, tuition will be discounted. The programs typically cost about $10,000 per year.
There are a lot of questions that we won't know the answer to for awhile, such as, how many people are really equipped to work and get a degree at the same time. And how useful will the program actually be? Perhaps only a small number of students will actually get something out of it.
But this is a brilliant experiment from Starbucks.
Starbucks has always been ahead of the curve, when it comes to retail, when it comes to benefits. The fact that Starbucks made healthcare available has always been one reason why people sought out Starbucks jobs. Except now, in the age of Obamacare, with healthcare more readily available to individuals, that isn't as much of a draw.
Not only is it less of a draw, it's less of a hook to keep current employees employed. Turnover is constantly going to be an issue for retailers. This should help. Employees who are working towards a degree will be less inclined to leave if it means losing subsidized access.
The benefit should also help Starbucks maintain a high quality of applicant. It sounds perverse in an era where unemployment is still high, but companies constantly complain about having a hard time finding reliable people. An applicant interested in getting a degree is probably the kind of employee you want, even if they're just there for a couple years.
Again, it's easy to imagine this being of limited benefit to a small number of employees. Online education is still relatively unproven. Maybe the degree won't go very far. But from Starbucks' perspective — which desires to reduce turnover and attract a high quality applicant — there are some good reasons to introduce this benefit.
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