Starbucks offers free college for veteran employees' families

Christmas controversies aside, the coffeehouse giant is extending its college scholarship program to cover the spouses and children of veteran employees. In addition, it offers active military workers up to 80 hours of paid service leave. 

Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS/File
A Starbucks cafe is seen in Los Angeles, California, in this March 26, 2015, file photo.

Starbucks may not be in the Christmas spirit this year, but the coffee chain is going all out for Veterans Day.

Already offering employees free tuition, Starbucks is extending its generosity to the spouses and children of workers who are military veterans. Any full- or part-time employee is eligible and the scholarship is for the online platform of Arizona State University, a top research school based in Tempe, Ariz.

“We have a responsibility as a nation to honor our veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice, but it goes beyond saying thank you,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in a statement Monday.  “We must put our thanks into action and collectively help those who are making the transition from military to civilian life.”

So far, the existing Starbucks College Achievement Plan has been taken up by more than 4,000 employees. First announced in June 2014, the plan offers a four-year education completely free of charge for baristas without a bachelor’s degree. Employees working at any capacity can sign up, and they will not have any obligations toward Starbucks after graduation.

The partnership between ASU and Starbucks is divided on a 42-58 basis, with Starbucks covering the majority of the fees. Typical tuition at the university costs about $15,000 year. As CNN Money reports, a credit in the business school runs up to $523. But the Starbucks program does not stipulate any major requirements; employees – and now some family members – can pick any of the more than 50 undergraduate majors the ASU online campus offers.

The extension of the college plan to veterans’ families will affect up to 5,500 Starbucks employees who are veterans or the spouses of military members. In 2013, the company committed to hire 10,000 veterans by 2018.

In addition to the veteran college plan, Starbucks introduced a “pay-for-service” program that would offer up to 80 hours of paid leave for military members to go on duty. The coffeehouse also runs a military reintegration program called Military Family Stores, which connects military communities with civilian society in terms of job opportunities and other transitional services.

“Not only do we have a moral duty to engage veterans once they leave the service, we know that doing so in a meaningful way will ultimately strengthen our nation,” Schultz said.

Starbucks is on the list of top 100 military friendly employers, compiled by Military Friendly, a vertical of Victory Media. Also on the rankings are Amazon, Verizon, AT&T, Lockheed Martin, Walmart, and Home Depot. The No. 1 military friendly employer is the Combined Insurance Company of America, where 39 percent of its 2015 new hires are veterans.

Veterans can face a unique set of problems in their transition to civilian life. For instance, unemployment is more rampant. Research organization RAND found that between 2000 and 2011, younger veterans were 3.4 percent more likely to be jobless than their peers without military experience.

In a study commissioned by the Volunteers of America, researchers at the University of Southern California’s social work branch found a multitude of barriers for returning military workers, including unaddressed mental health problems, substance abuse issues, hiring prejudices, and ageism. The May report strongly recommended the implementation of transitional programs like those operated by Starbucks.

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