Starbucks, late Monday, announced it was doubling its free college tuition plan for employees to cover a full four years of college instead of two. It also will offer employees faster tuition reimbursement — after every semester instead of after completing 21 class credits.
The program, in partnership with Arizona State University, offers all eligible full-time and part-time employees full tuition coverage for a bachelor’s degree though ASU’s online program. Starbucks agrees on an investment of up to $250 million or more to help at least 25,000 employees graduate by 2025.
The average tuition cost for four years at ASU Online is $60,000.
“By giving our partners access to four years of full tuition coverage, we provide them with a critical tool for a lifelong opportunity,” says Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, in a statement. “We’re stronger as a nation when everyone is afforded a pathway to success.”
At a time when college tuition costs have escalated, the announcement is potentially a major professional and morale booster for thousands of Starbucks employees. “More than 144,000 employees would currently qualify for the free tuition,” says Starbucks spokeswoman Linda Mills.
College tuition costs jumped about 3% in the 2014-15 school year, with in-state tuition averaging at $9,139 and out-of-state tuition averaging at $22,958 for the public school year, reports the College Board. Tuition at private, non-profit schools averaged $31,231.
Nearly 2,000 Starbucks employees have already enrolled in the program, which offers 49 undergraduate degree programs through ASU Online.
“It taps into the soul of their brand: community,” says Madden. “To give an employee four years of free college is to say, ‘We care about you and want you to have your best possible life.'”
Employees have no commitment to remain at the company past graduation.