This past week marked an announcement that was truly groundbreaking. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, informed the nation that all employees of his company would be eligible to attend college on the dime of Starbucks itself. Companies in the past have paid for schooling of certain members of their organizations but this is the first time that a company is willing to send any employee of the company to college.
The deal was struck with Arizona State University, where the Starbucks employees will be able to attend online classes subsidized by the company itself. In a corporate culture where benefits for employees are diminishing, this is an incredible commitment from a company. It is no secret that college tuition prices are skyrocketing and have been for decades now. Student debt has surpassed a trillion dollars for American college graduates and that number only continues to rise. Starbucks employs a number of people who may otherwise not attend college if it were not for a program like this.
With that being said this program is not as lucrative as its face value suggests. The benefit plan comes with stipulations as one may expect. The employee (and student) must obtain aid and loans to attend the online courses before they are reimbursed by the company. Also, the offer is good for a two year education making a bachelors degree a burden that the employee still bears its own responsibility for.
Regardless of the limitations, this employee benefit plan still opens up educational access to more people and that is a net positive. The interesting thing going forward will be to see how other companies treat some of their employees. The effect on employee benefit structures could be significant. What effect with this have on business?