Starbucks to pay college fees for US staff
US coffee chain firm Starbucks will pay college fees for US workers to complete a bachelor's degree online in a tie-up with Arizona State University.
US employees of the firm who work at least 20 hours a week are eligible for the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.
Starbucks staff who are successfully enrolled will receive partial tuition for the first two years, and full tuition for their final two years.
The annual fee for online courses at the university can exceed $10,000.
After they've completed their bachelor's degree, the employees are not obligated to return to employment with Starbucks.
Starbucks staff looking to attend college online at Arizona State University (ASU) can choose from about 40 programmes including business, engineering, education and retail management.
In a statement posted on its website, the university said the initiative was designed to 'support the nearly 50% of college students in the United States today who fail to complete their degrees due to mounting debt, a tenuous work-life balance and a lack of support.'
In that same statement, Howard Schultz, chairman and president at Starbucks said: "There's no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind. The question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we try and do something about it.
Supporting our partners' ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make. Everyone who works as hard as our partners do should have the opportunity to complete college, while balancing work, school and their personal lives."
In addition to the financial aid, students who are admitted under the college plan will also have a dedicated enrolment coach, financial aid counsellor and academic advisor to support them through graduation.
Michael M. Crow, President at the Arizona State University said that Starbucks was "establishing a new precedent for the responsibility and role of a public company that leads through the lens of humanity and supports its partners' life goals with access to education."
The collaboration comes one week after a White House report showed student debt loan balance in the US had jumped to $1.1tn early this year, when compared to $250bn in 2003.
Last week US President Barack Obama signed an executive order allowing millions of student-loan borrowers to cap their payments at 10% of their monthly income.