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Starbucks to Offer Employees Free College Education

Starbucks to Offer Employees Free College Education


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Starbucks has partnered with Arizona State University to offer its employees the chance to earn a tuition-free college education

Starbucks to Offer Employees Free College Education

Starbucks, the largest coffeehouse company in the world, has partnered with Arizona State University to offer its employees a free online college education.

In order to qualify, employees will need to work a minimum of 20 hours a week, and have the test scores needed for admission into Arizona State.

Starbucks will pay full tuition for employees who already have at least two years of college credit, and partial tuition for those with fewer credits.

Although many companies offer related benefits like tuition reimbursement programs, those programs often come with conditions on the length of employment and the courses that qualify for reimbursement.

Starbucks, on the other hand, will open the program to all employees across the U.S., without those conditions.

Starbucks CEO Howard D. Schultz told The New York Times that the tuition program, which would effectively give many of its employees the chance to leave for better jobs, will nonetheless establish loyalty and appreciation for the company.

“I believe it will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people,” he told The New York Times in an interview.

For the latest food and drink updates, visit our Food News page.

Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.


Starbucks Offers All Veteran Employees Free College For Their Spouse Or Child

What a gift, timed perfectly for Veterans Day: Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks has just announced that it will now extend a 100% tuition-free four-year college benefit to the spouse or child of every U.S. veteran or active military reservist employed 20 or more hours a week.

This new benefit, whose zero-tuition price point results from a 42-58 partnership between ASU and Starbucks, will be an additional benefit atop the previously-announced college benefit (also four years, 100% tuition free) that Starbucks extends to every employee who works 20 hours per week or more, which is offered through the online campus of Arizona State University (ASU), an accredited (and generally well-respected) institution, in an approach that has been lauded by the leadership of the U.S. Department of Education.

Starbucks will also now be paying for up to 80 hours per year for service obligations of employees who are active duty or reservists in the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard.

Starbucks: Air Force Spouse Apron • Credit: Starbucks Coffee

At the same time, Starbucks also announced a variety of other benefits, support, and milestones related to the employment of U.S. veterans, active military reservists and military spouses.

These include two achievement milestones in its provision of services for veterans and their families:

• Starbucks announced that it has already succeeded in hiring more than 5,500 veterans and military spouses, fulfilling more than 50% of the commitment made just two years ago to employ at least 10,000 vets and their spouses by 2018. In order to achieve this, Starbucks has invested in several specific strategies: It hired four dedicated military recruiters in key focus cities across the country including Seattle, D.C. and Austin, established more than 80 connections with military bases, installation transition and educational offices across the country and overseas, attended more than 200 military hiring fairs across the nation that recruit veterans and military spouses, and expanded their employee affinity group, the Starbucks Armed Forces Network, from one to 12 regional chapters. (Starbucks Armed Forces Network is intended to connect veterans and create mentorships across the company to ease transition from military to civilian life.)

• The company has extended its ambitious Military Family Stores commitment with plans to reach 30 Military Family Stores near U.S. military bases in 2016. Starbucks’ Military Family Stores are run by veterans and military spouses and partner with service and community organizations like Blue Star Families, Team Red, White and Blue, The Mission Continues, USO and others to offer transition services and build connections between military and civilian communities.

As I’ve written recently, tuition and similar benefits are proving to be a wildly successful recruitment and retention tool for Starbucks, with over 60% of applicants mentioning the tuition benefit in particular as an influencing factor. The success of Starbucks’ approach would seem to demonstrate that in business it’s not always a question of choosing between taking care of your employees and their community and taking care of the bottom line. One really can feed the other, it would appear.

Micah Solomon is a Seattle-based customer service consultant, customer service speaker and trainer, and bestselling author. Click for a free chapter from Micah's latest book or watch Micah's new customer service keynote speaker video.


Why Starbucks Is Paying for Employees' College Educations

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) has always treated its employees better than most companies in the food service industry.

Its latest move might make health insurance for part-time workers and above-average pay look minor in comparison. The coffee giant has offered its employees ("partners" in Starbucks speak) a partially free college education. The new program, announced Monday, is called the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and it offers part-time and full-time employees of the chain full tuition reimbursement on courses up to and including completion of a bachelor's degree through an online partnership with Arizona State University.

More than just a fringe benefit like, say, free coffee or a bonus for being employee of the month, this new deal makes getting a college education possible for people who might not have been able to pursue one. It also presents a realistic alternative for students who might otherwise would have earned a degree . and a mountain of debt.

By offering this perk Starbucks not only became a more attractive place to work, it might have changed how higher education works in the United States. Online learning has changed the equation by offering students an alternative to traditional education. Now, Starbucks may be paving the way for businesses to partner with colleges and universities to make college affordable for everyone.

What exactly is Starbucks doing?

Starbucks employees based in the U.S. working 20 hours per week at any company-operated store (including Teavana, La Boulange, Evolution Fresh, and Seattle's Best Coffee stores) may choose from more than 40 online undergraduate degree programs taught by ASU's faculty. Courses of study offered include electrical engineering, education, business, and retail management. Partners admitted to ASU as a junior or senior will earn full tuition reimbursement for each semester of full-time coursework they complete toward a bachelor's degree. Freshmen and sophomores will be eligible for a partial tuition scholarship and need-based financial aid for two years of full-time study. Partners will have no commitment to remain at the company past graduation.

"In the last few years, we have seen the fracturing of the American Dream. 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," said CEO Howard Schultz. "Supporting our partners' ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make."

The program is targeted at 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.

Why does this make business sense?

While part of Starbucks' logic for treating employees well is certainly because it's the right thing to do, there is also business logic in the policy. Starbucks baristas are the face of the company. They interact with customers and, unlike fast food workers, where much of the work is heavily regimented, they are trained, skilled workers.

Starbucks invests heavily in its baristas, training each one for an average of 30 hours on everything from the difference between a cappuccino and a latte to the intricacies of making a Frappuccino. The chain has a complicated menu made even more complicated by the amount of customization offered. Teaching a barista to make a perfect half caf, no foam, soy Cinnamon Dolce Latte costs the chain money and minimizing employee turnover has a significant impact on the bottom line.

It costs Starbucks around $3,000 to train an employee, according to the Organics Consumer Association. Offering health care to part-time workers, the activist group wrote, helped the chain keep yearly employee turnover to around 65% -- well below traditional fast food restaurants, which can run from 150% to 400% yearly employee churn.

Helping employees pay for the first two years of college then paying entirely for the next two should help Starbucks attract better employees and hold onto them longer.

Will other companies follow suit?

Other dining chains may not need to follow suit but there are many retailers who might benefit from pursuing a similar model.

Imagine how much more attractive working at Target or Best Buy would become if either offered tuition a path to a loan-free degree? Even if those stores required a period of employment post-graduation the offer would be tempting. That would lead to a higher class of employee that stays longer. It would also give the company an increased pool of educated workers trained in its systems for future management opportunities.

In offering this employee incentive Starbucks has given itself a huge hiring advantage. As the economy improves and the demand for trainable workers grows, other companies will have to either follow suit or offer higher wages to compete. Until that happens Starbucks should get its pick of the young labor force, and older workers looking to finish degrees.


Product, Service & Design Innovation Starbucks Partnering with ASU to Offer Employees Free College Tuition

Aarthi Rayapura
Published 6 years ago. About a 4 minute read.

Starbucks has announced the Starbucks College Achievement Plan — an opportunity for eligible part-time and full-time employees to complete a Bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement through a collaboration with Arizona State University's online degree program.

Employees working an average of 20 hours/week at Starbucks and its subsidiaries (Teavana, La Boulange, Evolution Fresh and Seattle's Best Coffee) are eligible and can choose from more than 40 undergraduate degree programs offered by ASU. Those admitted as a junior or senior will earn full tuition reimbursement for each semester of full-time coursework they complete toward a Bachelor’s degree, while freshmen and sophomores will be eligible for a partial tuition scholarship and need-based financial aid for two years of full-time study. Starbucks isn’t requiring any commitment from them to remain at the company after graduation.

“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,” Starbucks president and CEO Howard Schultz said in a statement. “Supporting our partners’ [employees] 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.”

Starbucks says that the investment is designed to support the nearly 50 percent of college students who fail to complete their degrees due to mounting debt, a tenuous work-life balance and a lack of support.

“We can't wait for Washington. We've got to step up as we have done in the past and demonstrate true leadership,” Schultz told host Jon Stewart on Monday’s Daily Show.

The plan aims to provide working students with flexibility, financing and comprehensive support to complete their degree. In addition to financial support, a dedicated enrollment coach, financial aid counselor, academic advisor, adaptive learning services, networking and community-building opportunities will support the students through graduation.

“It’ll be millions of dollars per year,” Schultz said on The Daily Show. “We’re a public company we have to build long-term value for the shareholder, but we recognized a long time ago when we provided health care for our people, ownership for our people, the only way you can build a great and enduring company is by linking shareholder value with value for employees,” he added.

Abraham Cervantes, who has worked at Starbucks as a barista for two years, said: “I was put here to play music, and my goal is to change someone’s life — at least one. I want to teach at a university, and for that, you need a college degree. For me, the opportunity to earn my degree means I have the chance to teach others and make a better life for myself and my mom who raised me and my three siblings on her own.”

ASU president Dr. Michael M. Crow said: “ASU is pioneering a new university model focused on inclusivity and degree completion, and Starbucks is 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 Starbucks-ASU collaboration was inspired by participation in the Markle Economic Future Initiative, co-chaired by Schultz and Markle president Zoë Baird, with Dr. Michael Crow as one of its members.

“This pioneering collaboration between Starbucks and ASU is exactly the kind of innovative action this country needs to help Americans reach their dreams,” Baird said. “This is a breakthrough in using online learning backed by the financial resources that make it possible to participate. America urgently needs leadership to help people successfully transition to today’s economic realities.”

This is the latest in a string of groundbreaking partnerships for ASU, whose School of Sustainability has recently teamed up with the City of Phoenix on a comprehensive waste-diversion campaign called "Reimagine Phoenix," and the Dutch municipality of Haarlemmermeer to create the world’s first regional plan based on the principles of a circular economy.


Why Starbucks is offering workers a college education, hold the debt

This video includes narration reporting that U.S. student debt totals $1.3 billion. The correct figure is 1.3 trillion. This has been corrected in the transcript. The PBS NewsHour regrets the error.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

Now from coffee to college.

In our latest story in partnership with The Atlantic magazine, we look at unusual push by Starbucks to give their employees access to higher education.

00 a.m., and 23 year-old Markelle Collum-Herbison is already at the computer, getting in a little studying before she's off to her full-time job.

MARKELLE COLLUM-HERBISON:

I knew that the only way out was to have an education.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

The plan had always been that mom and dad would help Markelle pay for some of that education.

MARKELLE COLLUM-HERBISON:

They lived in a five-bedroom home, three bathrooms, two-story. It was beautiful.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

That all changed overnight in 2008, when the economic crash hit Markelle's family brutally.

MARKELLE COLLUM-HERBISON:

I remember signing up for food stamps. It was that bad.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

Today, Markelle is still living at home to help make ends meet. She is one of 21 million people enrolled in U.S. colleges this year. Now, more than ever, the challenge for low-income students and others is not getting into college, but finishing.

AMANDA RIPLEY, "The Atlantic": American colleges are not really historically designed to make sure students finish. They are designed to enroll students.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

Writer and author Amanda Ripley has specialized in higher education.

AMANDA RIPLEY:

We have one of the highest college dropout rates in the developed world. We have 35 million people now who have started college and not gotten a degree.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

For Markelle, a scholarship to community college got her through two years, but she had no idea how to afford the two more years it would take to earn a degree while working 40-hour weeks at Starbucks.

She is one of the first Starbucks employees to benefit from a unique financial aid program started last year by an unusual duo, the man who introduced Americans to the grande latte. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and the president of Arizona State University, Michael Crow, announced the expansion of a program that will have the company pay for the college education of its employees.

Now, if they work at least 20 hours a week, all 140,000 Starbucks employees are eligible for a four-year tuition-free online education at Arizona State University.

HOWARD SCHULTZ, CEO, Starbucks:

The role and responsibility of a for-profit public company can't be just about making money. It has to be about giving back, and it has to be about achieving the balance between profit and social impact.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

The very existence of the college achievement plan suggests few want to make a career of being a barista. Schultz says he wants employees to get the education that will equip them to move up to higher-level jobs at Starbucks.

MICHAEL CROW, President, Arizona State University:

Our republic is built around the notion that the key to our democracy will ultimately be the education of our people and the advancement of our democracy will depend upon their education. Well, it's not working now.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

The average college grad now leaves school with $30,000 of debt. At four-year private colleges, it goes as high as $100,000 40 million Americans have at least one student loan, with most juggling as many as four.

HOWARD SCHULTZ:

What I noticed early on is people had a lot of shame about their personal debt. And you have to peel the onion back, and finally someone has enough courage to say, I'm so embarrassed, but I have $5,000 in debt and I haven't been able to pay it off.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

Since the 2008 recession, student debt has jumped 84 percent to a record $1.3 trillion, surpassing even credit card debt in America. The personal consequences of not succeeding to finish or to pay it off can put a student in debt for decades. There is also a hidden emotional cost.

HOWARD SCHULTZ:

People, I think, their self-esteem was crushed as a result of failing the first time and then being saddled with that debt.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

If Schultz and Crow understand so well the stigma that failure can be for a student, how easy it is to lose hope, it's because it goes back to their own roots.

HOWARD SCHULTZ:

I think when I sat in a room with these young kids and felt hopelessness from them, it took me back to a different time in my life, living in the projects of Brooklyn, New York. I can remember as if it was right now. And I still have the scars and the shame of what it meant to be a poor kid.

MICHAEL CROW:

What they need was a warm, welcoming, safe place where they could advance their personal development, and so we created that.

AMANDA RIPLEY:

Every Starbucks student gets an enrollment counselor, a financial aid adviser, an academic adviser to help pick out classes, and then and ongoing success coach, as they call it, to help them deal with the inevitable problems that come up.

MARKELLE COLLUM-HERBISON:

There was a lot of pressure on me, and it was scary to have to make those adult decisions and those grown-up decisions without having all of that life experience.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

That's a real challenge. Too many colleges are good at everything, it seems, but customer service.

AMANDA RIPLEY:

I think American colleges are confused places. They are trying to enroll students, and they are very good at that. They are trying to garner research funds, and they are good at that. Many are trying to gain status, and they are good at that.

But those things often are at odds actually with helping students finish efficiently and thrive in the modern economy.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

Mario Matus is Markelle's personal adviser. And that has been the key to success so far.

MARIO MATUS, Arizona State University Student Adviser:

There's that fear of I'm falling behind, or this isn't what I expected, or maybe this isn't the right major for me. We want them to know that that's OK. That's part of the process. It's not just you on a computer on an island. You are part of a community.

MARKELLE COLLUM-HERBISON:

And it's really nice to have someone there through those hard times and there to celebrate all of your accomplishments.

AMANDA RIPLEY:

Having someone in your court like that who texts you and calls you and checks in and is there to give you a little advice or a little support turns out to be hugely important.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

Nationally, students who enroll in online courses are more likely to fail or withdraw. Low-performing students or those who have previously struggled in college tend to fall further behind in online work. This is another reason Starbucks and ASU provide the advisers, although most are unable to meet face-to-face like Markelle, who lives near the ASU campus.

The goal here, though, Howard Schultz, is to move the baristas, the people who work for you, on and up out of the company.

HOWARD SCHULTZ:

The goal of the company is not move them out of the company. The goal of the company is to give them new tools, new resources and obviously a broader comprehensive education to do many other things within Starbucks.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

Even though tuition comes at a discount, if students don't finish a course, they will be even deeper in debt. Perhaps that's why sign-ups for the program started slow. In addition, initially, only students who already had two years of college credit were eligible to participate. Now any employee working 20 hours a week is eligible.

And you wouldn't be doing this if you didn't think it would help your bottom line.

HOWARD SCHULTZ:

That's exactly right. But I also &mdash I'm doing it because I recognize that, more than ever, that not only do we have to exceed the expectations of our customers, but we have to exceed the expectations of our people to succeed.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

This can benefit ASU at a time when universities face decreasing enrollment.

AMANDA RIPLEY:

I do think that, in this case, their business interest and their social justice interests are aligned.

MARKELLE COLLUM-HERBISON:

The American dream is opportunity. That is what we stand for here. We are a culture where anything is possible. We are setting new standards. It truly is the American dream, and we are bringing that back.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

Hundreds of other workers like Markelle will determine if that dream is achievable online while working part-time.


Benefits and Perks

Starbucks succeeds when our partners do, and we believe that success is best when shared. Our world-class benefits and programs for eligible part- and full-time partners are tailored to your needs. Your Total Rewards package includes base pay and bonus, be nefits, retirement savings, stock and perks.

Health Coverage

Starbucks offers partners the choice of multiple coverage levels for medical, dental and vision plans, as well as Health Care and Dependent Care rei mbursement accounts, life insurance, disability and accident coverage.

Stock and Savings

Our competitive 401(k) retirement plan includes a generous company match, and we offer partners discounted company stock (S.I.P.) as well as participation in our equity rewa rd program, Bean Stock .

Paid Time Off

Parental Leave

Eligible partners welcoming a new child may receive time off and pay replacement through parental leave. Starbucks also provides Family Expansion Reimbursement of up to $10,000 per adoption, surrogacy or Intrauterine Insemination for eligible partners.

Education

Starbucks offers eligible partners the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree with 100% tuition coverage, coaching, counseling and advising through Arizona State University’s top-ranked online degree programs. Learn more at starbucks.asu.edu.

Commuter Benefit

We offer our partners easy ways to take care of work-related commuter expenses, like transit passes funded by pretax payroll deductions.

Partner Assistance

Coffee and Tea Markout
Partners are eligible to receive a free pound of coffee or box of tea every week.

Starbucks recognizes partner contributions at all levels of achievement through formal and informal programs.

Partner Networks
These employee resource groups bring together partners with common interests, helping connect them to growth opportunities and ways to serve communities.

[email protected] by Care.com
All U.S. partners have access to up to 10 backup care days for kids and adults per year, plus senior care planning and a premium membership to Care.com.

Spotify Premium Subscription
All U.S. partners enjoy full-service Spotify, choosing what to listen to, creating radio stations and accessing Starbucks® in-store playlists.

Elite Athlete Program
Starbucks supports partners participating in athletics at a world-class level.

Matching Gifts Program
We match partners’ individual contributions of financial gifts or time to eligible nonprofits up to $1,500 per fiscal year.

On-Site Gym, Daycare and Dry Cleaning
Partners working in the Starbucks Support Center enjoy multiple services under one roof, designed to enhance work-life balance.


Back to school! Starbucks offers baristas free college tuition in landmark deal with Arizona State University

The coffee chain said Monday its employees will get a big perk: They can pursue a college degree and the company will pick up the tab.

Its roster of 140,000 full- and part-time employees are now eligible for college tuition reimbursement for all online undergraduate courses offered through Arizona State University, Starbucks announced.

"Everyone deserves a chance at the American dream," CEO Howard Schultz said in a release. "The unfortunate reality is that too many Americans can no longer afford a college degree, particularly disadvantaged young people, and others are saddled with burdensome education debt. By giving our partners access to four years of full tuition coverage, we will provide them a critical tool for lifelong opportunity. We're stronger as a nation when everyone is afforded a pathway to success."

Nearly 2,000 employees were already enrolled in a program begun last year that allowed workers who had two years of college credit under their belt to finish their degree in retail management, but the latest offering vastly expands that plan, the Seattle-based company said.

Now an employee who works at least 20 hours and has limited or no college experience can get a degree in any of the 49 undergraduate programs offered online by Arizona State, which charges up to $543 per credit hour.


Starbucks pledges to pay for employees’ college tuition—as long as they enroll in one online program

Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee shop chain, is offering to fund four years of college tuition for employees in the United States working at least 20 hours a week—but only if they enroll in the online program of Arizona State University (ASU).

The initiative is an expansion on a previous program that offered Starbucks staff two years of tuition at ASU Online. The company says the update not only offers more money—the school costs about $15,000 per year—but reimburses students after every semester, instead of every year as was the case in the previous scheme. CEO Howard Schultz told Reuters that the company is also open to expanding the scheme to fund master’s degrees.

It’s not all that revolutionary for a company to offer tuition reimbursement as a recruitment tool or perk. What is unique, according to Starbucks’ critics, is that the company is restricting its employees to one online university program. Education experts say online universities are often the least suited for low-income students—the exact group that Starbucks says it wants to help.

ASU Online is ranked as the 8th best online university in the country by US News & World Report. But the program has been criticized as a for-profit venture that makes up for shrinking funding at its parent university. The program is affiliated with the for-profit company Pearson, and university officials have compared it, at least in terms of potential reach, to that of the troubled University of Phoenix—the poster child for the drawbacks of for-profit online programs.


Implementation of this program varies significantly from company to company.

Some reimburse for any educational classes. Others require that coursework is done through specific schools to be eligible for reimbursement. And, some companies may only cover tuition costs for approved classes.

Companies may require a certain grade to qualify for reimbursement, or that employees remain with the company for a set period of time following the completion of the class to qualify for reimbursement.

Some companies may cover the costs associated with classes, such as textbooks or internet connection fees.


Starbucks' Big Plan To Fund Employees' College Education Was Hatched By Self Described Class Underdogs

It’s no accident that Starbucks ’ bold new plan to fund its employees’ college educations reflects the partnership of two men who, from an economic-class perspective, began life as social underdogs: the coffee chain’s CEO Howard Schultz, who was famously raised in Brooklyn’s Bayview housing projects in Canarsie, and Michael Crow, president of online degree program Arizona State University, who grew up in a family that was statistically among the lowest-income earners.

But while Schultz and Crow managed to finish their college educations, the odds are that others like them today won’t.

“I can go to Brooklyn today and point to a 10-year old kid in the projects. The odds that that kid is going to college and earn a four-year degree today versus when I was a kid are much lower,” Schultz said in Manhattan yesterday at an event to launch the plan on a stage at the New York Times Center.

Among even his own employees, “the majority of our partners [workers] do not have access to an education or a college degree,” he said.

Schultz and Crow are setting out to address some depressing odds, as 50% of college students never finish their degree due in large part to the financial hardship of paying for it.

To that end, for Starbucks’ employees who work at least 20 hours a week, the new Starbucks College Achievement plan will offer free tuition for juniors and seniors to complete a bachelor’s degree via Arizona State University, and at least 50% tuition reimbursement for freshmen and sophomores.

“The idea is to break this downward cycle of class-based education,” whereby kids from the highest earning families in the U.S. have an 80% chance of earning a college degree, while those from the lowest-income families have a mere 9% chance, Crow said at the event.

He called ASU a “public-purpose” university whose “gains are accomplished by inclusion, not exclusion,” the latter of which has become the prevailing model at the nation’s educational institutions.

The mood at the meeting, which Starbucks called a “Partner Family Forum,” evoked that of a high school graduation, with Schultz its most popular teacher.

The audience included 170 handpicked Starbucks employees — and invited family members — deemed stars by their managers. Several excitedly peppered panel members, who included U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan, with enrollment questions, thanked Schultz for the company culture he’s fostered, and shared very personal stories and emotional testimonies.

Starbucks Howard Schultz hugs 17-year employee Erica, who can now finish her four-year degree, paid . [+] for by the company's new College Achievement plan.

They included Erica, a 17-year Starbucks veteran who was raised in the Bushwick projects by a single Mom, and has worked her way up from barista to store manager. When her daughter heard the news about Starbucks’ college achievement plan, she told her mother, “Finally you can graduate!"

“I’ve only committed to one man in my life, and that’s you,” Erica said to Schultz, who then bolted from his seat on the stage and leaped into the audience to give her a hug.

Its Boldest Act of ‘Conscious Capitalism’ Yet

While it’s essentially an unchallenged assumption that the primary role and responsibility of a for-profit company is to make money, “I don’t believe that’s true,” Schultz said. “The only way to provide long-term value for shareholders is to create long-term value for people.”

And with his record of conscious capitalism, Schultz has certainly put his money where his mouth is, perhaps most dramatically illustrated by Starbucks’ pioneering move in 1988 to offer health insurance to part-time employees.

That altruism certainly hasn’t hurt the company, he said. “We’ve have the strongest performing stock in our peer group for a decade, and we have a significant competitive advantage: human capital, you.”

But as the college program is massive and unprecedented in nature, expect stumbles along the way as the company ventures into the unknown, Schultz warned.

“Of course, there are risks involved in this,” he said, and the cost of funding the program is yet unknown. And as for how many people will sign up? "We don’t know,” he said.

When asked by Forbes what he would like to see from his fellow business brethren along these lines, he said, “I don’t know if other companies are willing to do [this], and how they view their people.” But for its part, Starbucks plans to lead by making its process very transparent. “I think many people over time will follow.”

“This is very personal for the company, it’s very personal for me,” Schultz said.