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Starbucks to provide free college tuition for baristas

A Starbucks in New YorkA Starbucks in New York
Starbucks is expanding the restaurant chain's parental leave benefits in 2017 for the company's U.S. partners.Robert Caplin/Bloomberg—Getty Images

Starbucks (SBUX) is offering its employees a brand new perk: full tuition reimbursement to complete a bachelor’s degree.

The coffee company is partnering with Arizona State University to provide all part- and full-time U.S. workers with the opportunity to receive reimbursement on tuition expenses for their junior and senior years of undergraduate education, Starbucks announced Monday.

The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is an effort to close the gap in college achievement. Nearly 50% of college students in the U.S. today fail to complete their degree, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“There’s no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind,” Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, said in a statement. “Everyone who works as hard as our partners do should have the opportunity to complete college, while balancing work, school and their personal lives.”

The plan also offers freshmen and sophomores partial tuition scholarships and need-based financial aid, as well as resources to help employees balance their work-life needs. Starbucks will provide working students with a dedicated enrollment coach, financial aid counselor and academic advisor to support them through graduation.

All U.S. employees working an average of 20 hours per week at any company-operated store — including Teavana, La Boulange, Evolution Fresh and Seattle’s Best Coffee stores –are eligible to choose from more than 40 undergraduate degree programs at ASU, and they will earn full tuition reimbursement for each semester of full-time coursework completed.

Any worker that takes advantage of the program has no commitment to remain at the company past graduation.

The alliance grew out of Schultz’s and ASU president Dr. Michael Crow’s participation in the Markle Economic Future Initiative, a program committed to expanding opportunities that help Americans succeed in today’s global and digital economy.

“This is a break-through in using online learning backed by the financial resources that make it possible to participate,” Zoë Baird, president of Markle, said. “America urgently needs leadership to help people successfully transition to today’s economic realities.”

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