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How Starbucks College Achievement Plan has helped workers get ASU degrees

Starbucks and ASU's partnership is taking a new innovative approach to working while in school

Students inside the Memorial Union Starbucks on ASU's Tempe campus on Jan. 18, 2017.

Students inside the Memorial Union Starbucks on ASU's Tempe campus on Jan. 18, 2017.

In 2014, Starbucks and ASU collaborated to create the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a joint program that helps students attend school without going into debt. The program's expansion over the course of three years has helped students financially and academically with its speedy reimbursement process.

Tim Auck has worked for Teavana, a subsidiary of Starbucks, for the last eight and a half years. He learned about the Starbucks Achievement College Plan about three years ago when it was introduced to its employees.

As a Teavana district manager, Auck joined the achievement program and is now studying political science at ASU.

“That’s the Starbucks way," Auck said. "They see a problem, and they set out to do something about it.”

He said Starbucks knows that it's a “stepping stone” in many employees' lives, and wanted to help better its partners and communities.

Although Auck supported the program, he said that he did not take part in it right away due to its initial set up.

When the program first started, students only received 50 percent reimbursement after completing their first two years. They would then receive 100 percent of their remaining two years tuition after completion.

Auck said he likes the setup much better now: he receives 100 percent of his tuition at the end of each completed semester, instead of the previous biyearly process.

He said this initiative is “one of a kind,” and recommends it to other companies and universities.

“It gives us an edge when hiring," Auck said. "The total compensation is huge."

Starbucks customer service said this program is “the opportunity for Starbucks partners to finish a college degree with full tuition reimbursement through Arizona State University's online degree program.”

Students who have worked for Starbucks for three consecutive months averaging twenty hours a week are eligible.

“In terms of demographics, Starbucks partners come from all 50 states and have an average age of 26, which is lower than the average age of our non-Starbucks online undergraduate population, which has an average age of approximately 31,” said Carrie Lingenfelter, the media relations manager for EdPlus at ASU.

Lingenfelter said there are currently more than 6,500 partners in the Starbucks College Achievement Program and as of December, 2016, more than 400 members have graduated.

“As The New American University, ASU is focused on inclusivity and degree completion," Lingenfelter said. "With the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, ASU, in working together with Starbucks, is able to offer Starbucks partners a way to achieve the dream of a college degree."

Lingenfelter said the program has expanded since its launch, and now provides a special service for Starbucks employees who are either current or former members of the U.S. Armed Forces. They can also now extend this benefit to a spouse or child.

While the program gives Starbucks workers a cheaper way to go to college, there are still limitations. With 60 degrees offered online compared to the 290 offered across ASU's campuses, students are limited in their choice for an area of study. 

Not all Starbucks workers are eligible for the program.

Logan Sherbuck, a Starbucks employee and ASU journalism sophomore isn't eligible for the program because his degree isn't offered online. 

"If my degree were offered online, I'd 100 percent take advantage of it, but it's not, so I can't," Sherbuck said. "One of the things I wish is that I'm actually taking a couple classes online currently. I wish I were reimbursed for taking a couple online classes, but it's online or nothing."

Sherbuck said the program has been enticing enough for his friends to apply for a chance for a cheaper education.

“I have a couple friends who are looking to apply at Starbucks just to take advantage of the program because their degrees are offered online."

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