For Hagar Johnson, the decision to join Starbucks was based on more than a supportive work environment and a steady paycheck, it was also about earning a college education.
“I attended an Opportunity Fair and Forum in Chicago and Starbucks drew me in with their conversation about paying for employees to go to school through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan,” said Johnson, a shift supervisor in Englewood. “I was hired on the spot and was excited to finally finish my degree.”
Prior to Starbucks, Johnson had attended Georgia Southern University, but health challenges caused her to drop out. Once on board at Starbucks, she applied for the College Achievement Plan. Unfortunately, her grades didn’t meet requirements.
'An excellent example of the innovative partnership between ASU and Starbucks'
Johnson is one of an estimated 15,000 Starbucks partners (employees) who have a desire to earn a degree, but do not qualify for admission to the company’s College Achievement Plan, which offers all eligible U.S. partners full tuition reimbursement for an undergraduate degree from Arizona State University (ASU) online. To help these partners reach their goals, Starbucks and ASU launched Pathway to Admission, a program that provides partners the ability to work toward admission tuition free.
“We know that a college degree is one of the key goals for our partners, but about 20 percent of those who have applied have not met the academic qualifications for entry,” said Ron Crawford, vice president, Global Benefits. “These are partners who have the passion and desire to pursue a college degree, but are unable to take advantage of Starbucks College Achievement Plan. We wanted to do something about that and together with ASU developed Pathway to Admission.”
Partners participating in the Pathway to Admission program receive guidance from ASU support specialists to help with course selection. Starbucks covers the cost of the Pathway courses, with partners only responsible for a $49 fee to verify their identity for each class. If a course is passed with a "C" grade or better, partners have the option to convert that class for academic credit. Once partners complete the requirements of the Pathway to Admission program and are accepted at ASU, they can then transition into Starbucks College Achievement Plan.
“Pathway to Admission is an excellent example of the innovative partnership between ASU and Starbucks,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “This program is a clear expression of Starbucks commitment to its partners and ASU’s continuing mission to provide access to higher education to all qualified students.”
Because of the Pathway program, Johnson is now happily on her way to earning admission to ASU.
“Not everyone goes straight to college. Some people have obstacles and setbacks that prevent them from building their skills and continuing their education,” Johnson said. “Starbucks cares enough to help me grow to be that future business leader or doctor or whatever it is I want to be.”
‘I put my education on hold to raise kids’
Sandy Roquet joined Starbucks as a store manager in 2014 and learned about Starbucks College Achievement Plan shortly thereafter.
“At first, I didn’t think about the program for me, but for a few baristas in my store who were trying to balance work and school,” said Roquet. “It broke my heart that they couldn’t continue a job that they loved because of a conflict with courses they needed for school.”
After learning that a partner transferred credits from her previous university to ASU, so she could work full time, Roquet began to wonder about the program for herself.
“I put my education on hold to raise kids,” Roquet said. “I was an empty nester, so I thought it would be a good time to go back and finish my degree.”
After graduating from high school in 1981, Roquet attended a small business college. She was a few credits shy of an associate’s degree when she got married and decided to focus on her personal life. When Roquet applied for the Starbucks College Achievement Plan last year, her credits didn’t transfer over to ASU. The business college she attended had closed, so it was a challenge to obtain the credits.
“I was encouraged to attend a community college for a few years and transfer those credits over to ASU. That’s when I gave up on school,” she said. “I remember going home heartbroken that I couldn’t go back to college and was resigned to this until I got the call about the Pathway program.”
Roquet started Pathway to Admission in October 2016. She has one more class until she will be academically admissible to ASU, where she plans to study retail business.
“Having my degree means I can set a goal and accomplish it,” said Roquet. “My degree will offer the stepping stone to what I want to do next at Starbucks.”
‘There were real opportunities for growth with the company’
After high school, Justin Stilwell wanted to attend college to study exercise and nutrition, but tuition costs were too high. Instead, he took on two jobs at a time to make a living and save money. The thought of attending college was always in the back of his mind.
Stilwell joined Starbucks as a barista in 2011, after his cousin told him about the company’s great benefits. He worked his way up to his current position as a shift supervisor.
“I thought Starbucks was going to be a cool job to have temporarily,” he said. “But I came to realize that there were real opportunities for growth with the company.”
Last year, Stilwell’s district manager introduced him to Starbucks College Achievement Plan.
“I thought it was great because I could study anything I was passionate about whether that meant staying with Starbucks or moving on after graduation,” he said. “There were just so many opportunities.”
Stilwell applied to the College Achievement Plan, but because he never took his Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), he wasn’t eligible. Fortunately for Stilwell, he received the call about participating in the Pathway to Admission program.
“The program was great and I could study on my own time and easily work around my work schedule,” he said. “Studying came back to me naturally and I enjoyed it.”
Once Stilwell finishes the Pathways program and earns admission to ASU as a full-time student, he plans to work toward earning his degree in just three years.
“It means so much to not stress out about school and how I will pay for it,” he said. “Starbucks is giving people this great opportunity to advance in any direction in life. Some people think if you don’t go to college right away, it’s too late for you, but it’s never too late.”