Education benefits programs help students earn while saving

For many college students, the most pressing issue concerning their ability to attend college is the financial obligation. As college costs continue to rise, more and more students – and colleges and universities – are searching for ways to ease the financial burden students are challenged with, and the financial obstacle that keeps many out of school.


For many college students, the most pressing issue concerning their ability to attend college is the financial obligation.

As college costs continue to rise, more and more students – and colleges and universities – are searching for ways to ease the financial burden students are challenged with, and the financial obstacle that keeps many out of school.

In that effort, Lewis-Clark State College and Arizona State University have created unique education benefits programs designed to help students be able to afford higher education, while also learning skills they can carry into the workforce after graduation.

At ASU, president Michael M. Crow collaborated with Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz to create the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. At Lewis-Clark State College officials have created the Presidential Work Scholars program.

Both are unique programs that encourage work and study to help keep college affordable.

Here is an in-depth look at both programs and how students benefit.

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Starbucks College Achievement Plan

Through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, Starbucks employees in the United States (known as partners) who work as few as 20 hours per week, can earn a bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement through any of Arizona State University’s more than 60 undergraduate online degree programs.

There is no obligation for partners to stay at Starbucks after they graduate from ASU, ensuring the program is really geared toward degree-completion.

“The Starbucks College Achievement Plan provides a model whereby working professionals can complete their degrees while continuing to balance work, school, and family responsibilities,” said Ryan Chase, assistant vice president at EdPlus at ASU. “Through its online degree programs and commitment to providing broad access to a research-based, discovery-driven university education, ASU has the ability to deliver degree programs at scale to
Starbucks partners.”

Crow and Schultz were working together on another project when they began collaborating on the idea to create the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. At the time, Schultz was the co-chair of the board of the Markle Future Initiative and president Crow serves as a board member. The Markle Foundation is a major worldwide philanthropic organization. Schultz and Crow currently serve as members of Markle’s Rework American initiative.

“It’s really through that shared collaborative work and getting to know each other that Schultz and president Crow began contemplating the idea of providing what we would consider to be an employer-benefit for the 21st Century, and really seeking to move the needle for degree attainment in the United States,” Chase said. After all, half of college students across the country who enroll drop out before finishing a degree. And what we seek to do is to provide a uniquely supportive environment for balancing meaningful work with education. What that specifically means for ASU is that Starbucks partners, like all online students, have a dedicated enrollment counselor who works with them in selecting a degree program that’s right for them, an academic advisor, a team of financial aid counselors, ,and success coaches to support them through graduation.”

A major component of the Starbucks program is the reimbursement process. All partners who participate in the program complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually. Full tuition coverage is made possible by scholarships from ASU, federal grants that each partner qualifies to receive, and reimbursement from Starbucks for remaining tuition and eligible fees not covered by the scholarship and grants.

Starbucks

“The program is committed to expanding opportunities making it possible for partners to complete their degree and build a bright future for themselves, within Starbucks and beyond,” Chase said.

Arizona State University was recently ranked No. 1 on U.S. News & World Report’s inaugural list of Most Innovative Schools. Chase said the Starbucks College Achievement Plan is geared toward Starbucks partners across the nation.

Starbucks has nearly 150,000 U.S. based employees, more than half of whom do not have a bachelor’s degree. So any of those partners, as long as they are benefits-eligible, can take advantage of the program.

Over 5,000 Starbucks partners have enrolled as students since the program began in October 2014. Among the most popular
degrees being pursued are psychology, organizational leadership, healthy lifestyles coaching (health sciences), criminal justice, retail management and, business communications.

Retention rates among partners participating in the program are approximately five percentage points higher than ASU’s core online student population (not including Starbucks partners) Chase said. A total of 44 partners have graduated from the program and 100 more have applied to graduate in May commencement at ASU.

“We’re really excited about the program,” Chase said. “It’s been a great program to be a part of. Together, Starbucks and ASU share the vision that inclusion is no barrier to excellence and that everyone deserves the opportunity for a great education.”


Ryan Chase
Ryan Chase is assistant vice president for student success at Arizona State University, responsible for supporting groundbreaking enhancements to the student experience. Chase has an extensive background in the areas of client and staff development, customer relations, change management, student success, and higher education compliance. He has an MBA from the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU and a BA from Indiana University-Bloomington, where he majored in History and Germanic Studies.

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