Starbucks Is Sending Baristas To College For Free

Starbucks coffee cup with notepad and pen

Starbucks is getting criticized for providing free college tuition to employees. Dude, seriously? | Source: Hattanas Kumchai /

You’re paying for more than a caramel macchiato at Starbucks: You’re helping to pay for a barista’s college tuition.

Starbucks announced that the company is working with employees to send them to college online at Arizona State University Online for a hefty discount for freshman and sophomore years, and for free their junior and senior years. Any kind of tuition reimbursement or help is pretty much a dream come true for most college students, especially with student loan debt creating a wealth gap for many millennials. However, critics are already coming out of the woodwork to raise eyebrows at and questions about Starbucks and Arizona State University’s motives.

Professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sara Goldrick-Rab, told MSNBC, “ASU Online is a profit venture. And basically, these two businesses have gotten together and created a monopoly on college ventures for Starbucks employees.”

Goldrick-Rab added that online-only universities limit students’ options, and that they may actually not be a great option for lower-income students–and that those are the very students who would be enrolling in the Arizona State University online program through Starbucks. Further, ASU Online’s for-profit status raised some criticism, as well as the fact that full-time students would be still be working a minimum of 20 hours per week at Starbucks in addition to their studies.

While some of the criticism of the program may be valid, at the end of the day, it’s really not that raw of a deal for Starbucks employees. And for that last point about working 20 hours per week? No offense, but there are far worse schedules to have. I was a Starbucks barista in college and held down an internship and three other jobs and managed to still get a 4.0 at a regular college that I attended in the flesh and graduated with no debt. There was a will, so I found a way–and so can others.

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