How Starbucks Serves Its Students
How Starbucks Serves Its StudentsCrystal Barrick, Assistant Director, Communications
More than seventy percent of Starbucks employees are students or aspiring students. Thanks to the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, they can now earn a bachelor’s degree online through Arizona State University (ASU) — with full tuition reimbursement for all four years.
Starbucks chose ASU not only because of its innovative online platform, but also because of the high-quality education and support it could offer. Students have access to dedicated coaches, advisors, and tutors, professors who teach on ASU’s campus, and can choose from more than 60 online degrees.
All Access spoke with Mary Dixon, director of partner resources – Starbucks College Achievement Plan, to learn more.
All Access: What inspired Starbucks to invest in its employees in this way? Why is education a top priority for the company?
Mary Dixon: We know that investing in our partners (employees) is the best investment we can make. The Starbucks experience comes to life through our partners. When our partners are engaged, the result is deeper customer connections, and that’s good business — we are successful one partner, one customer at a time.
When we began looking at the next way we could invest in our partners’ experience and create better pathways to opportunity, our partners told us they wanted to finish college but couldn’t because of the financial challenges that were standing in their way.
Knowing that more than 70 percent of our partners have not finished their bachelor’s degrees, we wanted to help. So in 2014 we launched the Starbucks College Achievement Plan in partnership with Arizona State University (ASU).
AA: What have you learned from the partners who have participated in the program so far? Has it changed the culture of the company?
MD: After launching the program in 2014, we learned quickly from our partners that our original structure for the program was too complicated. We listened and expanded the program in early 2015 to include all four years of college (it was originally just the last two) and make the reimbursement process easier.
Now we’re seeing more than 60 percent of our new hires are interested in the program. And we’ve learned that partners enrolled in ASU retain 40 percent higher than our core U.S. retail population, and they are four times more likely to get promoted and take on greater responsibilities.
AA: Can you share some of your favorite success stories?
MD: There are so many great stories that we hear every day, from partners who didn’t think they could finish their degree (or ever start one).
Michelle, a single mom, returned to school to finish her degree and has inspired her daughter to go to college.
Anthony, who wants to pursue journalism and film-making, and is the first in his family to graduate.
Every one of the more than 6,000 Starbucks College Achievement Plan current participants — and every one of the more than 200 graduates — has a unique story. The program continues to grow and show us how investing in our people can lead to great things.
AA: What advice or inspiration would you give to other companies that are considering similar investments?
MD: Talk with your employees — they are the inspiration. Ask: what is most meaningful to them? What are the values of your organization? Take a chance to do something differently. Find a great partner, like we did with Arizona State University. A strong partnership pushes you to do even more, and you both bring your specific expertise to the table. The combined efforts only help make the program better for your employees.
Visit the Starbucks College Achievement Plan website to learn more about the program and hear testimonies from students who have participated.