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When Starbucks made the announcement that they were partnering with Arizona State University to give their employees the chance to obtain college degrees, the sentiment veered between “Great idea!” and “Terrific marketing tactic!” It’s not Either / Or. It’s more like And / And. What’s good for staff is good for the company, and I think what people are missing is that Howard Schultz is trying to give his employees some Responsibility, Learning, Recognition and Joy – not only in the confines of their jobs – but in their lives.

College is incredibly expensive in the US and it remains a huge barrier for a lot of young people from attending college. Forbes reported only 9% of those from the lowest-earning families have the chance of earning a college degree. With the Starbucks College Achievement plan, Starbucks is rewarding employees who work over 20 hours a week with the opportunity of free or heavily subsidized tuition through Arizona State University’s online degree program.

Will it lose staff in the process? Probably. But that was inevitable anyway. The difference is that Starbucks is going to attract more people who aspire to a better education and who want to achieve their dreams. It is also going to get people working on the inside to love the company as much as some of their fans do. This initiative will create more Starbucks advocates who will champion the brand in the future because it was that very brand who believed in them first. Win/ Win.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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