The baristas who make coffee at Starbucks are about to get a grande new perk: full tuition reimbursement for an online degree from Arizona State University for their junior and senior years of college.

The new program was unveiled Monday in a media blitz that included an emotional video, its very own hashtag and a launch event in New York featuring Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz, ASU President Michael Crow and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Yet beyond the branding, the program does in fact take a distinctly unusual approach to the traditional tuition reimbursement benefit among companies.

For one, rather than reimbursing funds to the school of an employee’s choice, Starbucks has partnered with a single institution. Starbucks also appears to be the first major company to partner with a public university’s online program, according to Mark Kantrowitz, the senior vice president and publisher of, a college financial aid website.

In addition, for many Starbucks employees, the new program could be more generous than traditional programs. Full tuition to ASU can run about $15,000 a year, according to estimates provided by a Starbucks spokeswoman.