Starbucks' existing tuition reimbursement program, which was rolled out in 2011, gives workers up to $1,000 a year for courses at City University of Seattle or Strayer University. So far, Starbucks has paid out $6.5 million under that program, said Laurel Harper, a company spokeswoman.
Zee Lemke, a 31-year-old Starbucks employee and union organizer in Madison, Wisconsin, said she thought the program might be useful to some workers. But she noted that prospective employers also look at where a degree was earned, and that actual in-class experience matters.
As with most matters involving financial aid, the terms of the new program are somewhat complicated and will vary depending on each worker's situation.
Tuition for an online degree at ASU is about $10,000 a year, roughly the same for its traditional educational programs. For the freshmen and sophomore years, Starbucks and Arizona State say they will put around $6,500 on average toward the estimated $20,000 in total tuition.
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To cover the remaining $13,500, workers would apply for financial aid. Since Starbucks workers don't earn a lot of money, many would likely qualify for a Pell grant, said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of EdVisors.com, a website about paying for college. If a worker qualified for a full Pell grant of $5,730 a year — or $11,460 over the two years — he or she would theoretically be left with about $2,040 to pay out of pocket.