Starbucks College Achievement Plan: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Starbucks College Achievement Plan?

The Starbucks College Achievement Plan, first introduced in June 2014, is a first of its kind partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) that creates an opportunity for all eligible U.S. partners (employees) to earn their bachelor’s degree with full tuition coverage all the way to graduation at ASU’s top-ranked online degree program.

Why is Starbucks offering this benefit?

College education is a priority for Starbucks partners, but for many, there are barriers to success including rising tuition costs, which put college out of reach. And in fact, a postsecondary education has never been more important. We know there is demonstrated value in having a college degree – both the opportunity it affords and the measurable impact on earning potential throughout a lifetime. Per data from the Department of Education:

College graduates with a bachelor's degree typically earn 66 percent more than those with only a high school diploma; they are also far less likely to face unemployment.

Over the course of a lifetime, the average worker with a bachelor's degree will earn approximately $1 million more than a worker without a postsecondary education.

By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education or training.

This program also supports Starbucks ongoing commitment to creating pathways to meaningful employment for young people, specifically, Opportunity Youth – the population of 16- to 24-year-olds who are out of work and not in school.

What value does a college degree provide to Starbucks partners?

A postsecondary education has never been more important. In fact, according to the Department of Education:

College graduates with a bachelor's degree typically earn 66 percent more than those with only a high school diploma; and are also far less likely to face unemployment.

Over the course of a lifetime, the average worker with a bachelor's degree will earn approximately $1 million more than a worker without a postsecondary education.

By 2020, an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education or training.

At the same time, attaining a college degree has never been more difficult.

Over the past three decades, tuition at public four-year colleges has more than doubled, even after adjusting for inflation.

Between 1992 and 2012, the average amount owed by a typical student loan borrower who graduated with a bachelor's degree more than doubled to a total of nearly $27,000.

While half of Americans from high-income families hold a bachelor's degree by age 25, just 1 in 10 people from low-income families attain that level of education.

Regardless of income status, high-school graduates who enroll in college too often fail to finish: barely half will complete their degree in a reasonable time at four-year institutions; and at two-year schools it's only about a third.

Who is eligible to benefit from the Starbucks College Achievement Plan?

Partners based in the U.S. working an average of 20 hours per week at any company-operated store (including Teavana® and Evolution Fresh™) and who do not yet have a bachelor’s degree are eligible for this program.

In 2015, we added an additional benefit to the program, with an expansion that allowed partners who are serving or have served in the U.S. military to designate an additional family member to receive the benefits of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

Is there a minimum amount of time a partner needs to be on the job before being eligible for the program?

Partners can apply to ASU upon hire, but will need to become benefits-eligible prior to starting classes. To find out more about benefits eligibility please visit the career site and check out Your Special Blend.

How does the scholarship and reimbursement work?

Partners in the program receive an upfront College Achievement Plan Scholarship worth 42 percent of their tuition costs. This is funded by ASU and applied at the time they enroll in classes. Partners will also have access to financial aid grants and Starbucks will reimburse any remaining tuition and mandatory fees not covered at the end of each semester (two sessions). This means that eligible partners receive full tuition coverage as they work towards completing their degrees.

Why is the Starbucks College Achievement Plan structured this way financially?

The scholarship/reimbursement structure was jointly developed between ASU and Starbucks to incentivize graduation without introducing financial barriers to access. Both ASU and Starbucks wanted students to have a personal financial investment in their education to give them a stake in their progress toward graduation. At the same time, we wanted to make sure partners' day-to-day finances were not affected. 

The 42 percent upfront scholarship and any need-based financial aid reduces out-of-pocket tuition at the outset so that most partners can cover it completely with student loans.

ASU notifies Starbucks every time a student completes a semester (two sessions) and Starbucks automatically reimburses partners for the full amount they paid out-of-pocket for that semester.

Starbucks partners incur no tuition debt if they progress and complete—the opposite incentive most students have today, and a powerful motivator. They are also encouraged to apply their reimbursement grants to the following semester’s tuition so that their out-of-pocket expenses are kept low and they can graduate without tuition debt.

What is the annual value of the Starbucks College Achievement Scholarship that ASU is offering?

The annual value of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan Scholarship varies based on the major and course load. ASU’s online degree courses range in cost from $490 to $633 per credit hour.

Based on an average amount of existing credits partners have as they enroll in the program, average contributions from financial aid and from ASU, as well as the average number of credits partners are expected to take each year, Starbucks expects to contribute approximately $3,000-$4,000 per year, per partner, to ensure full tuition coverage as they work towards achieving their degree.

What is Starbucks investment to have 25,000 partners graduate by 2025?

Starbucks is committed to helping at least 25,000 partners graduate by 2025. This equates to an expected investment from Starbucks of up to $250M or more. 

How is this program different from other tuition reimbursement programs?

High-quality education: ASU is the largest and fastest-growing research university in the U.S. and invested early and deeply in online education. Online classes are taught by the same award-winning faculty as on-campus degree programs, and students are awarded identical diplomas. ASU’s courses are completely redesigned for effective online delivery and backed with the state-of-the-art educational technologies to track learning progress and personalize instruction. ASU’s results are impressive with U.S. News & World Report ranking ASU in the top 10 “Best Online Bachelor's Programs” and number one on its “Most Innovative Schools” list.

Wide, unrestricted choice of majors: Partners can choose from over 60 undergraduate degree programs from psychology to electrical engineering. For those who want to pursue a career in Starbucks stores, ASU developed a concentration in Retail Management that is available to students who pursue a business degree. Partners can follow their passions in any direction.

No commitment after graduation: This program is open to any benefits-eligible partner working an average of 20 hours per week with no commitment to stay after graduation.

Excellent student services to help navigate college: A personal enrollment coach along with academic and financial aid counselors will help partners navigate the entire process of applying, choosing the right major, applying for financial aid and selecting the right classes to meet their academic goals.

Automatic reimbursement: There are no paperwork hurdles—reimbursement shows up automatically in partners’ paychecks if they remain benefits-eligible.

How long must partners stay with Starbucks or any of the family brands after graduation?

Partners have no obligation to stay employed at the company after graduation, though we are excited about the prospects for partners who choose to continue developing their careers with the company. 

Why did Starbucks choose ASU?

In developing this program, Starbucks wanted to work with a non-profit and, ideally, a public university that was known and respected by our partners and by other employers. We looked for an institution with the scale and experience to support a large volume of students and a broad choice of degrees. And most importantly, we sought a combination of excellent quality education and shared social values.

While some of the emerging online degree programs offered lower costs, Starbucks ambition was to make available to our partners a full range of “traditional” degree programs, taught by the same faculty and with the same rigor as on-campus degrees. We also wanted our college partner to offer the personalized attention and deep support that students need to get to graduation. We knew that approach would require a bigger investment, but felt that with the right partnership we could make it work.

ASU stood out because of their head start in quality online education at scale, thanks to ASU President Michael Crow's vision and early commitment—five years, 10,000 students, over 60 undergraduate degree programs and 20 graduate programs.

Add to that the quality of ASU's online degree programs: each course is fully redesigned to make the most of online learning modes, and ASU’s highly-engaged faculty are retrained for effective online teaching. ASU is a leader in employing innovative educational technology to deliver tailored academic support. They also invest in the student support services that are critical to reducing drop-out rates, and are ranked first in student services by US News & World Report. The diplomas ASU awards to online students are identical to their on-campus degrees, and their session-to-session student retention rates and graduation rates are extremely good.

Lastly, ASU’s mission matched Starbucks values. For ASU, the move into online innovation is part of their 10-year mission to broaden college access, reach students who truly represent America's demographics, and deliver college education at a scale that transforms society. They saw Starbucks diverse partners as exactly the kind of people who could benefit from help with access to college, and were committed to a long-term partnership that would make that possible.

How was the Starbucks College Achievement Plan designed to help the company’s partners succeed?

In addition to the financial support we’re offering partners, we wanted to ensure they had the right level of personal support to get them across the finish line, including:

Steady yet flexible work for a supportive employer, combined with family health benefits, to broaden access for those for whom residential college is not an option today.

ASU’s wraparound student services tailored for first-in-family students.

Innovative reimbursement structure (combined with generous upfront help) to reward students for making timely progress toward their degrees.

A national cohort of face-to-face study groups, studying in Starbucks stores on high-speed Wi-Fi.


Pathway to Admission: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Pathway to Admission?

Pathway to Admission is an expansion of our Starbucks College Achievement Plan, created in partnership with ASU, which gives all eligible U.S. full- and part-time partners a second chance for higher education. Partners who are academically inadmissible to ASU can now work toward admission, all tuition free.  

How does Pathway to Admission work?

Through Pathways to Admission, partners receive a personalized path created just for them by ASU to work toward admission based on each their unique situation and academic history.

Starbucks and ASU cover the cost of the Pathway courses, with partners only responsible for a $49 fee to verify their identity for each class.

Most partners will take 4-8 first-year university classes before becoming admission eligible to ASU, with the types and number of classes needed varying based on the partner’s academic history and intended major at ASU.

Pathway to Admission courses are taught by the same world-class ASU faculty who teach on its campuses, and offer the same high caliber of coursework.

If a course is passed with a “C” grade or better, partners have the option to convert that class for academic credit at ASU.

Once they complete the requirements of the Pathway to Admission program and are accepted at ASU, partners can then transition into SCAP, which offers 100 percent tuition coverage for every eligible U.S. Starbucks partner and a selection of over 60 degrees.

Why did Starbucks create the Pathway to Admission?

Our partners are interested in pursuing their college degree, but we found about 20 percent (~1 in 5 partners) who applied to Starbucks College Achievement Plan were not eligible for admission due to previous academic performances in high school or college. We know everyone has the capacity to grow, and we firmly believe we all deserve that opportunity, so we partnered with ASU to find a way to give partners a second chance to earn their way into admission.

Who is eligible for Pathway to Admission?

All U.S. based, benefits-eligible partners employed by Starbucks-owned businesses – regardless of role – who are not admissible to ASU and do not yet have a bachelor’s degree can participate in Pathway to Admission.

How much does Pathway to Admission cost?

The only cost to partners is the $49 ID verification fee per course, which covers academic integrity services throughout the course (e.g., proctored exams, etc.). Partners who receive a "C” grade or better will receive a code at the end of the course should they choose to convert a class for college credit. The tuition cost is fully covered by Starbucks and ASU.

What is the rigor of the courses in Pathway to Admission?

Pathway to Admission is an accredited university experience, delivered online, offering first-year university courses designed to be broadly applicable to incoming students. Pathway to Admission courses are taught by the same world-class ASU faculty who teach on its campuses, and offer the same high caliber of coursework.

How was Pathway to Admission developed?

Pathway to Admission is based on ASU’s Global Freshman Academy (GFA), which is currently available to the public and is designed to offer learners an opportunity to take first-year university courses and convert for them academic credit at ASU.