Help Put a Barista’s Name on a Diploma

March 31 marked the official 50th anniversary of Starbucks Coffee—the coffee, tea and beverage chain we all know and love. Starbucks has been celebrating all year long by emphasizing its missions and values. The brand has invested in community and opportunity through its college tuition program.

     As several Starbucks baristas quoted,

     “I mean, there’s financial aid but it only goes so far.”

     “Getting my degree was just always on the back burner.”

     “But I always heard, I was not supposed to finish school. It was not in the cards.”

     Due to high tuition costs, admission requirements and commuting constraints or schedule conflicts, many Starbucks baristas can only dream of going to college. Student loan debts are also almost double the size of a credit card debt: $1.31 trillion.

     “Going to school, it’s a struggle all the way through and then there’s years of paying off that debt afterwards,” one barista said.

     Witnessing the struggles of its employees, Starbucks decided to turn its employee partner’s dreams into a reality.

     In 2014, Starbucks and Arizona State University (ASU) collaborated to provide thousands of Starbucks employees across the United States with a tuition-free college education. The program, known as the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP), gives eligible baristas a tuition-free college degree.

     “The College Achievement Plan is the only program of its kind,” a Starbucks’ spokesperson said.

     Starbucks has only one requirement of its partners in SCAP. Partners must be working at least 20 hours per week to earn 100% tuition coverage. On the other hand, if employees do not qualify for ASU’s academic requirements, Starbucks also covers full tuition costs for partners to take courses to qualify for ASU admission. For eligible partners, this program offers a wide span of advantages. ASU’s online degree is the same degree that on-campus students earn, offering more than 60 unique bachelor’s degrees. Partners in SCAP are given free access to 24/7 tutoring, interviews and access to ASU career advisors. Students are assigned success coaches to help manage their work, school and life balance. After graduation, students can move on from Starbucks to follow their dream career paths with no commitments to continue working for the chain coffee company.

     “I grew up in a single parent household. With that type of income, college was the last thing to think about. Groceries, clothes—all that—came first. I get emotional because it got really difficult. I wanted to keep going to prove to my mom that I can do something that you did not accomplish, for you. We can do this together,” Victor, Starbucks barista since 2010, said.

     While attending ASU online, students are still able to work part-time as baristas to earn income to provide for their families and themselves. Starbucks is providing not only thousands of people with jobs and tuition-free college degrees, but also the motivation to pass their experiences forward.

     Another barista said, “I grew up in a small town where a lot of kids did not think of college as an option. I do want to go back to my hometown to be that teacher that motivates kids that higher education is a possibility. You can do it.”

     Thousands of baristas are enrolled today. By 2025, Starbucks in ASU will have committed to graduating 25,000 partners.

     To its worldwide family of customers, Starbucks said, “Every day you help put a barista’s name on a diploma.”

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