No one imagines that fry cooks or coffee baristas are receiving great employee benefits. But today Starbucks announced a surprisingly robust plan to offer free college tuition to both full and part-time workers. The scope of the new program, which allows workers to take online classes at Arizona State University, is likely without precedent in the fast food industry. It comes at a time of growing agitation by low-wage workers about miniscule pay and poor working conditions. Starbucks, though, has a history of offering its workers unusual benefits alongside the typical health insurance, vacation time and 401(k) packages. Here’s a quick rundown of the more interesting perks available to Starbucks employees after they’ve worked at least 240 hours over three months, or about 20 hours per week.
Starbucks will pay for a significant portion of the tuition of employees who are attending or want to attend college. The coffee chain is now offering to pay for full tuition for juniors and seniors, as well as partial tuition for freshmen and sophomores who get accepted to Arizona State University. Employees can choose from more than 40 online degree programs and don’t have to continue working at Starbucks when they complete their coursework. With courses sometimes costing more than $2,000 each and thousands of employees expected to take advantage of the offer, Starbucks will be making a hefty financial investment in the education of its workers.
Free Starbucks Stock
Stock options are a typical form of compensation for executive bigwigs, but even part-time baristas are compensated with a piece of the company at Starbucks. Through its Bean Stock program, Starbucks awards baristas and other low-level workers with restricted stock each year. That could end up being much more valuable than a regular Christmas bonus—Starbucks stock has increased in value by more than one hundred fold since it began the program in 1991.
Surprise! Starbucks employees get to take home a pound of coffee beans each week or a box of other company products, such as Tazo tea. They also get a 30% discount on Starbucks food and beverages. And while they’re actually on the clock, they can drink as many lattes as they want—most beverages are free for employees during work breaks.