Starbucks Will Pay Full Tuition for Workers to Take Online College Program

Starbucks Corp. will now pay full tuition for its workers to get a degree from Arizona State University online, instead of just partially footing the bill, giving it another way to entice employees in a tightening labor market.

Employees who work at least 20 hours a week will be eligible to have full tuition, the company said in a statement Monday. Starbucks founded the college program in 2014, with full-tuition reimbursement available only to juniors and seniors, while students in their first two years got a stipend of $6,500 to cover about half their fees.

Now, Starbucks is making full tuition available to more than 140,000 U.S. employees.

“Everyone deserves a chance at the American dream,” Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said in the statement. “The unfortunate reality is that too many Americans can no longer afford a college degree, particularly disadvantaged young people, and others are saddled with burdensome education debt.”

The announcement comes as competition intensifies for workers in the retail and fast-food industries. McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant chain, last week said it would raise hourly wages for U.S. workers at its company-owned stores. That followed similar pay hikes at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp.

Starbucks fell 0.5 percent to close at $94.07 in New York. The shares have gained 15 percent this year.

Almost 2,000 Starbucks employees have enrolled in the college program so far, the Seattle-based company said. Starbucks will invest at least $250 million to generate 25,000 college graduates by 2025.

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