A quick learner and natural leader, Lauren Esveld didn’t need a college education to get ahead.
She landed her first retail job at the age of 16 and began managing a store two years later. After a dozen years of increasing responsibility with a clothing retailer, she joined Starbucks four years ago as a district manager overseeing 13 stores in the Washington D.C. area.
Though she’s done well without a degree, Esveld is going back to school.
“You can have a good career, like I did, without going to college. But I’ve always believed a college education is extremely important,” she said. “Now I’m the mother of two boys and I want to set a good example for them.”
Esveld will soon be sitting around the family’s dining room table doing homework with her seven and nine year old sons. She’s among the 1,000 Starbucks partners (employees) who will begin classes through Arizona State University. They’re the first group of partners to take advantage of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan to complete their bachelor’s degrees.
Starbucks announced a unique collaboration with ASU’s online degree program this summer. Partners based in the U.S. who work an average of at least 20 hours per week are eligible for the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.
Starbucks chose ASU as its educational partner for two primary reasons: First, the university is committed to access for all academically qualified students, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances. Second, ASU has one of the best online education programs in the world, taught by the same faculty who teach on its campuses, and it has the experience and scale to support students with a variety of interests through a broad selection of degree programs.
Partners admitted to ASU as a junior or senior will earn full tuition reimbursement to complete their bachelor’s degree. Freshmen and sophomores will be eligible for a partial tuition scholarship and need-based financial aid toward two years of full-time study. Nearly 70 percent of partners enrolled through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan are continuing their education at the junior or senior level. In addition to financial support, Starbucks partners will have a dedicated enrollment coach, financial aid counselor and academic advisor.
“ASU is thrilled to welcome more than 1,000 Starbucks partners to the Sun Devil family. They come from nearly every state and their presence will greatly enrich our student body,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “The new university model that we are pioneering at ASU is focused on inclusivity and degree completion, and we are proud that this public-private partnership will enable Starbucks partners to achieve the dream of a college degree and the lifetime of advantages that an ASU education provides.”
Starbucks partners from nearly every state will begin classes when ASU’s online Fall B session begins on October 15, 2014. Those pursuing a bachelor’s degree include district managers, like Esveld, store managers and baristas.
Shawn Walker, a Starbucks barista in New York City, always intended on completing his college education in graphic information technology. He stopped one year short of the finish line. Loans added up and weighed him down.
“Not having a degree and having loan debt made me feel hopeless at times,” he said. “Now I have a different range of emotions. Now, I see that it’s possible for me to move my life forward. I am confident I will be successful doing something I love and this opportunity is a new beginning for me.”
Adding online education to work and family commitments will take careful planning, according to Mary Hamm, a 12-year Starbucks partner in Virginia who trains store managers and assistant managers.
When Hamm first heard about the Starbucks College Achievement Plan she thought it was an “exciting” benefit for other partners. But she couldn’t stop thinking about the prospect of completing a bachelor’s degree – something she wanted to do “someday” after her teenagers were finished with college.
Someday starts in a couple of weeks for Hamm. She begins her junior year through ASU while her oldest daughter is a freshman, studying biology, at a university in Virginia.
“I would never be able to do this without Starbucks. This is a blessing,” said Hamm. “With one child in college and another getting ready for college it would have been too expensive for me to take on another loan. This is absolutely huge. Starbucks and ASU are giving me so much.”
Hamm intends to give back. She’ll study project management to support her own development and the non-profit organization she started three years ago called Project Dominic. The group provides basic, daily necessities to homeless people in her local community.
“I’m finally able to do something I’ve wanted to do for so many years. Being able to finish my degree is one more reason why I love this company so much,” she said.
Partners from Starbucks and its family of companies – Teavana, Evolution Fresh, La Boulange and Seattle’s Best Coffee – are enrolled in nearly all of ASU’s undergraduate degree programs. The most popular fields of study for partners this semester are business, organizational leadership, psychology and education.
The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is one example of public-private partnerships Starbucks is fostering to create pathways to opportunity – both within the company and in communities. Other initiatives include: The Retail Excellence Training Program, launched with the Schultz Family Foundation and YouthBuild USA, to provide customer service skills through classroom and on-the-job experience in retail or café settings; Solutions City, a national initiative conceived by Starbucks and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to unite local leaders, non-profit organizations and businesses in solving community challenges through a series of meetings held in Starbucks stores.