Starbucks Partners of All Ages Pursue Degrees at ASU

For partners (employees) enrolled in the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, there’s no time limit for pursuing an education. Whether fresh out of high school or nearing retirement, earning a college degree is within reach.

Introduced in 2014, the Starbucks College Achievement Plan creates an opportunity for eligible U.S. partners to earn bachelor’s degrees with full tuition reimbursement. Starbucks is committed to helping at least 25,000 partners graduate from Arizona State University (ASU) through one of its more than 60 online undergraduate degree programs by 2025. There are currently more than 6,100 participating partners.

With the first day of ASU’s fall semester tomorrow (August 18), students are gearing up for the year ahead. Three Starbucks partners share their journey to ASU and how returning to school has enhanced their lives.

‘Returning to school has changed me’

In the early 1970s, Diane Tavoian began college at Drake University. Sadly, her mother passed away at the end of her first year, so she decided to put college on hold.

“Losing my mother distracted me from school,” she shared. “Life interrupted my school plans for a while.”

Tavoian joined the Army and made a few attempts over the years to finish her degree. By this time, however, she had young children and adding school to an already busy schedule was very difficult.

“It wasn’t until six years ago that I decided that it was now or never,” she said. “I began researching schools and applied to several universities including ASU.”

In 2014, Tavoian enrolled in ASU’s online program and once again pursued her studies. Unfortunately, funding school was a challenge, so she began seeking scholarship money.

“Being a less than traditional student, there were not many opportunities for me,” Tavoian said. “When I learned about Starbucks College Achievement Plan, I pursued a job with the company.”

Tavoian was hired at Starbucks in February 2016 and was able to continue at ASU - this time as an SCAP student. She's now entering her senior year and is on track to graduate summa cum laude in 2017.

“Returning to school has changed me,” she said. “It has proved to me that I can do a lot more than I thought I could.”

Tavoian has inspired her kids to prioritize school as well. Through the college plan, one of her daughters was also able to enroll in ASU’s online program. Starbucks extends tuition reimbursement to a spouse or child of current members of the U.S. Armed Forces and to veterans.

“I wish that I had the dedication to stick with college when I was younger, but it’s better than not doing it at all,” Tavoian said. “I hope I’m setting the example that no matter what, it’s never too late to go back to school.”

‘Having an education means a brighter future for me’

Jadrien Unjian enrolled in Pierce Community College in 2011, the same year he graduated from high school. Two years later, he joined Starbucks as a barista and shortly thereafter, earned his associate’s degree.

“I really wanted to continue my studies after community college, but I didn’t have the money to pay for it,” he said.

Fortunately for Unjian, the Starbucks College Achievement Plan provided an opportunity for him to earn his degree without taking out loans or incurring debt.

“I was really excited about the program because I had looked into different colleges and they were all so expensive,” said Unjian. “At first, I wasn’t sure that an online program would offer enough degrees, but ASU provides so many options to choose from.”

Unjian is now taking classes at ASU in pursuit of a marketing degree. He credits his father for providing the inspiration for him to finish his undergraduate degree.

“My dad stopped going to school for a while, but returned when he was in his forties,” he said. “I know that he regretted waiting to finish, but I’m proud that he never gave up on his education. I decided that I didn’t want to wait and the college plan really helped me reach that goal.”

Unjian, now in his junior year, will graduate from ASU in 2018 and is excited to receive his college diploma.

“I didn’t have any doubt in my mind that I would earn my bachelor’s degree. It was just a matter of how long,” he said. “Having an education means a brighter future for me.”

‘This was my opportunity to go back to school’

After graduating from high school in 1999, Susana Mojica finished one year of college before deciding to enter the workforce instead.

“I had to take out loans to pay for college,” she said. “I was so intimidated by the amount of debt I was incurring, so I put my dream of an education aside.”

Mojica soon got married and had three kids. Her husband was enlisted in the Coast Guard, so the family moved every few years.

“I thought one day I would go back to school,” said Mojica. “But with all of the moving around, I didn’t think I could finish. The thought of trying to transfer credits from one school to the next was daunting.”

Mojica’s opinion about school changed when her mother-in-law told her about a new program at Starbucks that would pay for her education.

“I knew that this was it. This was my opportunity to go back to school,” said Mojica. “I signed up for the Starbucks College Achievement Plan the very day that I learned about it.”

Taking online courses fits perfectly with Mojica’s lifestyle. She has found ample time to study when her kids are asleep or often times she works alongside them.

“I want my kids to see that you can put yourself first, take time to better yourself and improve your situation,” she said. “With enough dedication and support, you can make your dreams come true at any stage of your life.”

Entering her senior year this fall, Mojica and her family will travel to Arizona in May 2017, to see her cross the stage and receive her college diploma.

“It means so much to have a company investing time and money in my future,” she said. “I can’t think of any other company where I could receive as much support as I have from Starbucks.”

Learn more about Susana's story:

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