NEW YORK, June 16 (UPI) -- Starbucks has teamed up with Arizona State University to provide all employees of the coffee house free college tuition beginning in the fall.
The landmark policy will allow Starbucks' 135,000 employees to attend Arizona State's online program without incurring any debt or obligation to stay with Starbucks. Their only requirements are to stay employed 20 hours per week working at the coffee house and have the academic resume to be admitted to Arizona State under traditional circumstances. Starbucks employees who do not meet those requirements will be able to apply to scholarships and will have access to Arizona State's online advisors to help them apply for financial aid and merit-based grants.
Arizona State President Michael Crow, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will speak in New York on Monday to announce the details of what they're calling the Starbucks College Achievement plan.
"Starbucks is going where no other major corporation has gone," Jamie Merisotis, president and chief executive of education group the Lumina Foundation, told the New York Times. "For many of these Starbucks employees, an online university education is the only reasonable way they're going to get a bachelor's degree."
In a statement, Schultz said the decision to invest this heavily in its employees came from what he calls "the fracturing of the American Dream."
"There's no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind. The question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we try and do something about it."
Crow echoed this sentiment, adding, "The middle class is being hollowed out in so many ways. We can all see this social train wreck ahead of us."