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Crow: ASU, Starbucks partnership can be example for higher education

ASU President Michael Crow says the partnership between Starbucks and ASU partnership shows commitment to the future of higher education​

ASU Starbucks

(Photo courtesy of Starbucks)

When ASU and Starbucks announced they would partner to offer employees the chance to pursue an online education for free, many people doubted the feasibility of the program, which has been successful so far, officials said.

Crow and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz discussed the program Tuesday at an education summit in Scottsdale just a day after the two announced they were expanding the program to cover four years.

The program allows Starbucks employees to take online classes paid for by the company through ASU and pursue a one of 70 degrees the University offers. The program, which is the first of its kind, had more than 2,000 employees sign up in the first seven months.

“We can’t put a price on our people, and we are going to keep doing what’s right,” Schultz said.

With the raising costs of higher education, many young people are not able to pursue a degree, which has created issues on a personal and national level.

“If you’ve gone to college, failed and are saddled with debt, it’s hard to go back,” Schultz said. “Not only did we have to create a bridge but create a seamless opportunity for them to understand that between Starbucks and ASU we were going to ensure the fact they would be successful.”

Crow said this program represents a shift on ASU’s part to accommodate these students, but is also part of efforts to pioneer a new higher education model.

“We are figuring out how to great a great public research university and project what it does in a way that these (Starbucks employees) can (pursue their dreams),” he said.

This program required Crow and the University to redirect the direction they were taking to help other students.

“That requires us as a university to rethink what we are doing. Are we in the particular type of emerging class of public university? One that that has tens of thousands of full immersion students who are enhancing their education through digital enhancements.”

Crow said he hopes the success of the partnership stands as an example for other companies looking to give back to their employees and their communities.

“What we are trying to do is show how we can work on a larger scale,” he said. “What we are hopeful of is other value-driven directives will … find ways to create variations of (this model) and make it work.”

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