Starbucks college admission program helps partners bridge to a better future, no matter the road they take

For Starbucks partners who may not initially qualify for admission to Arizona State University through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, Pathway to Admission offers the ability to work toward admission, with credit conversion costs fully covered.

Did you know?

  • Partners who may be inadmissible to ASU can take classes to earn their admission into the university – and these classes are fully covered by Starbucks. 
  • With Pathway to Admission, partners receive a personalized path created just for them by ASU to work toward admission based on their unique situation and academic history. 
  • When completed successfully, the partner will earn admission into ASU and continue with the Starbucks College Achievement Plan to earn their first bachelors degree.

Since 2017, more than 3,500 Starbucks partners seeking a college degree have been admitted to Arizona State University (ASU) through a program called Pathway to Admission.  

Pathway to Admission was created in response to learning that one in five partners who applied to ASU were not initially admissible due to past academic history. This first-of-its-kind expansion of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP) gives every eligible partner the opportunity to earn their first-time bachelor’s degree. 

The support – at every step of the way – includes personalized course plans, dedicated coaches, flexible learning to help the transition back into college and credit conversion costs fully covered.  

“We hear from partners across the U.S. how Pathway to Admission was a game-changer for their degree trajectory,” said Becky Frisch, SCAP program manager. “Pathway to Admission provides partners the ability to redefine themselves as students, while building confidence and raising their grades one course at a time.”  

Read on to learn about three SCAP graduates who used Pathway to Admission:  

Zach, store manager, Tennessee

Zach joined Starbucks nearly 10 years ago after a rough period in his life. He’d attended college out of high school but ended up dropping out and getting an associate’s degree.  

As his retail career thrived, his mentor and manager encouraged him to consider completing his bachelor’s degree through SCAP. Zach began the process in 2018 but delayed, focusing instead on his promotion to store manager. Then a second child arrived. He was ready to give up for good, but his mentor and friends would not let him.  

“I’m not a risk taker, but you can’t play it safe all the time, and you can't wait for the perfect time for everything,” he said. “Of course, there are exceptions. However, if you’re just battling inside yourself, then now is the right time.”  

In 2021, he decided to reapply and was offered Pathway to Admission. He took three courses as part of a personalized plan and eventually gained admission. 

“I think it’s absolutely genius,” Zach said. “Show us that you can do it and you’re in, this is your opportunity to commit to yourself to get something that you want. Once I got that wrapped around my head of why I was offered Pathway to Admission, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s fine. I got this. Let’s go.’” 

One class a session turned into more classes the next, and he did well enough to earn his admission into Arizona State University.  

“I hadn’t been to school in a very long time. Life is much more complicated now than it was then. Now I have two children. I was trying to find that balance,” he said. “And I don't know if it’s just a mindset change, but school was very easy this time around. I think it’s just because of where I was at mentally. That was my focus. I had my family, I had my work, I had my school, and I was really able to balance those things.”

“I’m not a risk taker, but you can’t play it safe all the time, and you can’t wait for the perfect time for everything.”

In May, Zach graduated with a degree in Urban Planning. He credits his wife with supporting his goals and managing their kids so he could get through his coursework. In a family where nearly everyone else has graduated from college, a large group traveled to Tempe, Arizona, with Zach to celebrate his achievement together.  

Back home in Tennessee, he is excited to support five partners in his store going through SCAP. He encourages them to fully utilize the coaching support that Starbucks and ASU provide to all eligible part-and-full-time partners to navigate circumstances ranging from academic to financial.  

And to anyone who is worried about not being admitted for any reason, he has a final piece of advice: “Starbucks and Arizona State University have provided this pathway, this option, where a ‘no’ is not a no. If going to college is what you want, you have the opportunity to make it happen.” 

Jim, barista, North Carolina 

Jim tried college several times before, but never finished more than a class or two before other priorities got in the way.  

One of his biggest obstacles? Math. He’d failed algebra in middle school and high school, and it became a deterrent and a fear. 

When he joined Starbucks 9 years ago, he found out about SCAP and decided to apply – motivated to be a better role model for his fiancé’s daughters and to make his parents proud.

“That’s what I tell everybody, don’t let age be a factor.”

“I’m the youngest of five in my family; I was the only one that didn’t finish college,” Jim said. “I always felt that pressure on me.”  

Several semesters in the Pathway to Admission program helped Jim adjust to his new work-life-school balance and create a plan for success. Jim officially enrolled at ASU in 2019. Slow and steady, he worked on his degree in information technology, taking a class or two at a time while working full-time at Starbucks and running a computer repair business on the side. He utilized math tutors, and some of his co-workers even helped him with the subject.    

“Math went from being my worst subject to my best and favorite,” Jim said.

He finished with a 3.93 GPA and earned an A in all four of his math classes (including Calculus 2), graduating Summa Cum Laude. He is currently applying for IT and data analyst roles. A Starbucks Coffee Master, he was also selected to attend the Starbucks Origin Experience in Costa Rica in 2023.   

“I tell the partners at work that my biggest regret was delaying it for so long,” Jim said. “That’s what I tell everybody, don’t let age be a factor. I put my fears in front of me for so long. It was a 20-plus year journey. I proved myself wrong. If I passed those math classes with As, I can do anything. That’s how I feel.”

Genece, district manager, California  

Meika Ejiasi Photography

Genece started working as a barista when she was 30 years old, a single parent looking for health benefits for her two kids. She’d thought about college after high school, and studying to be a nurse, but set that aside when she became a mother. 

Fifteen years later, she’s a Starbucks district manager in California, having earned a college degree with honors in organizational leadership. Genece’s daughter, inspired by her mother, also enrolled in SCAP and graduated a few months later.  

“We have redefined some generational history and we get to rewrite our own stories in life,” said Genece, whose parents didn’t attend college. “Starbucks is not only a job for me, but also a deeply personal journey that has helped shape who I am as a person and has given me opportunities I never even dreamed of.” 

When she thinks back to the beginning of her college journey, Genece recalls how it all began with the Pathway to Admission program.  

“I know my story will inspire one person out there. Don’t let fear get in your way. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t ever limit yourself.”

“I had been out of school for so long, they wanted my transcripts. I couldn't get ahold of those. And I was like, you know what? Let me just start from the beginning, and that's where they explained what the Pathway program was. I was like, let me just navigate this one class. I took that one class, and I was like, ‘This isn't that bad.’ I had to take four classes in Pathways total. I kept testing myself and having the courage to do a little bit more, and I was like, okay, I think I can do this. 

“I wanted a better life for myself and my kids; that was really the motivation,” Genece said. “I knew I had to get better for me in order for them to be able to be better for themselves. I knew it had to start with me… I know my story will inspire one person out there. Don’t let fear get in your way. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t ever limit yourself.”

More about Pathway to Admission 

  • You can receive credit conversion coverage for up to 10 college-level courses in the program. 
  • Generally, partners take 4-8 courses (12-24 credits) to be eligible for ASU admission. 
  • There is no cost to enroll in credit eligible courses through the program. 
  • Once you pass a course, the cost to convert the course to credit is covered through the program. 
  • You must have at least a 2.75 GPA in the Pathway to Admission program for ASU admission. 
  • There are no costs for books or class materials.
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