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From Barista to Bachelor’s: The 7 Surprising Reasons Starbucks Will Pay for Its Employees to Get a College Degree for FREE

The well-known coffee company, Starbucks, has announced that it will now commit up to $250 million dollars so that every one of their full and part-time U.S. employees can go to college and earn a degree without accumulating any tuition debt.

That’s right, Starbucks is offering college for all of its U.S. employees for FREE!

Here’s the 7 reason Forbes says Starbucks is doing it:

1. Part of this grows organically from Starbucks’ long-visible corporate culture and ethos. Starbucks as we know it today was created by Howard Schultz, a leader who comes from a working-class background, son of a factory work who was ill-treated in his career. Schultz has written that he promised himself early in his career that if he ever was in a position to make a difference in the lives of the people who worked for him, he would do so. Once he was in such a position, rather than backtracking on his personal commitment, he immediately made it visible, by providing health insurance to both part-time and full-time workers, a rare move by such a large and geographically diverse employer.
2. Part of this works the way it worked for Henry Ford when he doubled his employees’ wages: creating and maintaining economic well-being among one’s employees can ultimately lead to a larger and more enthusiastic customer base. Starbucks’ customers are generally well-to-do, generally well educated; what could be better for the company than to increase this base?
3. What could possibly be better for employee retention and engagement? You’re not going to leave your job during the years you are planning to (but can’t yet get around to) going to college; you’re not going to leave your job while you’re in college, and the company will bless you and wish you well if you get a new job upon your graduation, as you’ll be leaving the ranks of employee and joining the ranks of “brand ambassador.”
4. Employees these days care greatly about the corporate social responsibility and ethics of a company that they consider as a potential employer. It’s just about the first question out of their mouths, according to every head of HR I’ve worked with lately. So it makes Starbucks an employer of choice even for prospective employees who themselves have no interest in pursuing a first or second degree.
5. It’s about genuine care for customers. I know that sounds odd, so let’s look at it. A customer-facing organization like Starbucks has to be on its feet and nice to customers all day long. Not just kind of nice, really nice. And that kind of nice comes off as a lot more genuine if the employees providing it aren’t just “on stage.” If the company is being nice to them, if they’re being nice to each other, and if being nice to customers is simply an extension of what’s going on, not just an act.
6. The “opportunity youth” part of the project represents a way to not only do some good for a particularly desperate set of our society, but broadens Starbucks’ pool of potentially great employees. One of–probably the most important– challenge of building and sustaining a great customer service-focused organization is selecting fantastic employees: the employees with the innate qualities required to provide superior service. Such employees don’t come from any particular socioeconomic background; they can be found literally anywhere. In actively working to broaden its recruiting scope, Starbucks is increasing the chance it will find such employees in place where they would previously have been overlooked.

7. Or, to give Starbucks the last word (it’s their money, after all), here’s spokesperson Harper again: “With the right skills and training, Starbucks believes Opportunity Youth represent a huge, untapped talent pool for American businesses, and through employment and access to higher education, hopes to help create a sustainable future for these young Americans.”

Photo credit:  Starbucks

Gwendolyn Sims

Gwendolyn Sims

Gwendolyn Sims is a Conservatarian surrounded by CA crazies. 9/11 was her Day of Awakening and she's been waking up others ever since. God, her teenage boys, her rocket scientist husband, her two dogs, her 14lb cat, volleyball, and the Buckeyes are her life. She hopes to get back to them all after the 2020 elections. Follow Gwendolyn on Twitter at @scvbuckeye.

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