Starbucks proved this week that it can deliver a jolt.
In this case, it was Monday’s announcement of an unprecedented new employee benefit that offers free college tuition to all workers – full time and part time – for their junior and senior years.
The coursework would be completed online through Arizona State University in one of 40 degree fields. There would be no conditions attached about staying with the company after the worker finished college.
Credit the company’s leadership and CEO Howard Schultz with a revolutionary concept that should challenge other employers to think broadly about how they can open doors for their workers and be transformative in their communities.
In recent years, Schultz said, the American dream of access to opportunity has been an empty promise to many. The cost of college has either been out of reach for millions or left them with suffocating debt.
Schultz said company leaders wondered: “Should we accept that, or should we do something about it?”
Starbucks executives chose the latter, and good for them.
A Starbucks worker’s freshman and sophomore years would not be free, but the company and ASU would offer subsidies toward tuition and fees. Grants and loans would help bridge the gap.
Overall, a full four-year college degree could be obtained at a huge discount through the company.
American industry learns things from the bold, the experimenters, the disrupters. Starbucks tuition program fits those descriptions. It will be interesting – and we hope even exciting – to see what kind of impact it has.