Sundi Rose
April 08, 2015 5:55 am

Huge news for anybody preparing to go to college: Starbucks has announced a new tuition program for employees. And, get this, McDonald’s is offering a similar opportunity for its workers. Within a week of each other, the corporate giants have revealed programs that will help their employees go to college, practically for free.

Starbucks explains on their website, “Starbucks believes in the promise and pursuit of the American Dream. In first of its kind collaboration with Arizona State University, we’re offering all part-and full-time benefits eligible U.S. partners


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the opportunity to receive 100 percent tuition coverage – for all four years – to earn a bachelor’s degree.”

The tuition assistance for Starbucks employees is limited to online content at the moment, but Arizona State has a pretty comprehensive catalogue of classes for online students, so it looks like the benefits outweigh the negative aspects in a lot of ways.

According to  The New York Times, “workers who average at least 20 hours of work a week are immediately eligible. The program is only for workers at company-owned stores, which account for about 60 percent of locations.” This unfortunately excludes the remaining 40 percent of the 12,000 locations across the country, making a lot of employees ineligible for assistance at all.

Additionally, the Starbucks program does expect students to pay initial semester costs out-of-pocket, after aid and grants, and then be reimbursed at the end of the semester. However, ASU has offered deep discounts to employees of the company. This may not seem ideal to some, but it seems a heck of a lot better than no college at all.

McDonald’s, on the other hand, is offering their programs to all employees, even those owned by franchisees, and to pay the colleges upfront with a check made out directly to the school.

McDonald’s offer isn’t quite as robust an offer as Starbucks, offering to pay only $700 a year for employees, which amounts to about two classes a year on the community college scale (that number is a tad higher for managers). McDonald’s also doesn’t offer a four-year option, and suggests that employees seek out local community colleges.

McDonald’s says on their website, “We believe education is the true-game changer. Because of this, we’re proud to offer our employees tools and world-class training that will help them succeed and grow – both personally and professionally.”

Still, here’s the really cool thing: neither company demands a commitment to stay with the company after they graduate.

Starbucks and McDonald’s are leading the push to offer more incentives – like better pay and more attractive benefits – as a way to draw the best employees, and probably a little to boost their own brand images. The Huffington Post cites the Seattle-based coffee chain’s initiative as an a “part of its commitment to ‘redefine the role and responsibility of a public company.’”

This could prove a turning point in the relationship of employers to employees and set a precedent for investing in the human component of the corporate culture. So much emphasis is placed on the bottom line, that people are often forgotten about as individuals, but these programs recalibrate priorities in a way that will undoubtedly change a lot of lives.

However it happens, everyone should have the opportunity to go to college, and it’s really amazing that, thanks to Starbucks and McDonald’s, you might only have to look to your employer for a way to make it happen.