ASU News

Starbucks, ASU team up for employee education program

June 15, 2014

Starbucks and Arizona State University have announced the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a powerful, first-of-its-kind program designed to unleash lifetime opportunity for thousands of eligible part-time and full-time U.S. partners (employees).

Starbucks chairman, President and CEO Howard Schultz hosted the first Partner Family Forum in the U.S. in New York’s Times Center and joined ASU President Michael M. Crow and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to officially launch the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. This significant investment will create an opportunity for eligible partners to finish a bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement for juniors and seniors, through a unique collaboration with ASU’s research-driven, top-ranked degree program, delivered online. Starbucks College Achievement Plan Download Full Image

Through this innovative collaboration, partners based in the United States working an average of 20 hours per week at any company-operated store (including Teavana®, La Boulange®, Evolution Fresh™ and Seattle’s Best Coffee® stores) may choose from more than 40 undergraduate degree programs taught by ASU’s award-winning faculty, such as electrical engineering, education, business and retail management. Partners admitted to ASU as a junior or senior will earn full tuition reimbursement for each semester of full-time coursework they complete toward a bachelor’s degree. Freshmen and sophomores will be eligible for a partial tuition scholarship and need-based financial aid for two years of full-time study. Partners will have no commitment to remain at the company past graduation.

“In the last few years, we have seen the fracturing of the American Dream,” said Schultz. “There’s no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind. The question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we try and do something about it. Supporting our partners’ ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make. Everyone who works as hard as our partners do should have the opportunity to complete college, while balancing work, school and their personal lives.”

Starbucks' investment is designed to support the nearly 50 percent of college students in the United States today who fail to complete their degrees due to mounting debt, a tenuous work-life balance and a lack of support. The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is created specifically for the company’s partners, and aims to provide an excellent academic foundation along with the flexibility, financing and comprehensive support that working students need to complete their degree.

“ASU is pioneering a new university model focused on inclusivity and degree completion, and Starbucks is establishing a new precedent for the responsibility and role of a public company that leads through the lens of humanity and supports its partners’ life goals with access to education,” said Crow. “We are very pleased to collaborate with Starbucks, who has impressed us with its strong commitment to its employees by providing this unique opportunity for a first-class college education. ASU has the vision, programs and scale to deliver it to Starbucks employees in every part of the country.”

ASU is gaining national attention for its efforts to increase access to high-quality, rigorous education with a focus on inclusion and impact. ASU is ranked the second most innovative school in the country by U.S. News & World Report, and ranks fifth in the nation in producing the best-qualified graduates, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of campus recruiters. Additionally, ASU is among the top producers of students awarded Fulbright scholarships to study and teach abroad, now ranking third in the nation for research institutions, tied with Princeton and Rutgers, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Our investment in high-quality education will attract and retain passionate partners who will move our company and our economy forward,” Schultz said. “ASU’s commitment to provide any talented student from any family background and any income level with a top-notch education makes it the singular partner for Starbucks.”

“I was put here to play music, and my goal is to change someone’s life – at least one,” said Abraham Cervantes, who has been a Starbucks barista for two years. “I want to teach at a university, and for that, you need a college degree. For me, the opportunity to earn my degree means I have the chance to teach others and make a better life for myself and my mom, who raised me and my three siblings on her own.”

In addition to financial support, Starbucks and ASU have developed an innovative retention model to support the unique needs of working students. Partners will have a dedicated enrollment coach, financial aid counselor and academic adviser to support them through graduation. The program will also include adaptive learning services to help students progress at the right pace for them; networking and community-building opportunities; and additional resources to help students plan their educations.

“We applaud Starbucks' leadership and vision in the creation of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan,” said Lumina Foundation President and CEO Jamie Merisotis. “By so clearly investing in its talent, Starbucks is providing employees with the opportunity to complete college – an investment that will pay off for them as individuals, for the company and for the nation, for generations to come.”

“Those who’ve been clamoring for bold, new initiatives to reduce the barriers to quality higher education in America should applaud this announcement,” added Crow. “As others follow Starbucks' example, we will hear those barriers come crashing down, to the lasting benefit of all Americans.”

The alliance between Starbucks and ASU was inspired by participation in the Markle Economic Future Initiative, co-chaired by Schultz and Markle President Zoë Baird, with Crow as one of its members. The initiative is committed to expanding opportunities that help Americans succeed in the global digital economy and reignite faith that the American Dream is achievable.

“This pioneering collaboration between Starbucks and ASU is exactly the kind of innovative action this country needs to help Americans reach their dreams,” said Baird. “This is a breakthrough in using online learning, backed by the financial resources that make it possible to participate. America urgently needs leadership to help people successfully transition to today’s economic realities. Howard Schultz and Dr. Michael Crow understand the challenges we are facing as a nation. Their commitment to the Markle Initiative and to embracing a more hopeful vision of America’s economic future is a path I encourage all leaders to follow.”

Watch Schultz and Crow address hundreds of partners in New York, live at the first Partner Family Forum in the U.S. on Monday, June 16, at 7:45 a.m. PT by visiting To watch a video, download photos and read interviews and stories with Schultz, Crow and partners, visit

Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications