Starbucks is to offer its US employees a free online college education, after reaching an agreement with Arizona State University to pay fees on their behalf.
The brand is aiming to help the nearly 50% of US college students who fail to complete their degrees due to mounting debt problems.
Each of the coffee chain’s 135,000 US staff who work at least 20 hours a week, and who have at least two years of "college credit", will have their full tuition fees paid. Starbucks will pay part of the cost of those with fewer credits.
The Starbucks College Achievement Plan launches today (16 June) and will allow employees to choose from around 40 undergraduate degree programmes including electrical engineering, business and retail management.
Arizona State’s online undergraduate courses are charged at around $500 per credit, with students required to take 120 credits to earn a degree, meaning the overall cost can exceed $30,000.
Howard Schultz, Starbucks' chief executive, said: "In the last few years, we have seen the fracturing of the American Dream. There’s no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind.
"There question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we do something about it. Supporting our partners’ ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make.
"Everyone who works hard as our partners do should have the opportunity to complete college, while balancing work, school and their personal lives."
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