SEATTLE — Starbucks is contemplating a new perk for its U.S. employees, one that would cover the cost of tuition for a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Arizona State University Online. The company’s Ad Infinitum Plan is designed to advance its workers’ education in a manner that ensures they are left with few job alternatives after graduating.
According to Starbucks’ website, more than 70 percent of its domestic employees are students or aspiring students, many of whom cannot afford to complete their education on their own.
Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, claims that many of his employees—or “partners” as they are called internally—“cling to the illusion that a diploma will make them independent, more whole. Frankly, it’s a complete falsehood and distracts them from making lattes.”
The company determined that providing partial or full tuition coverage to those who work 20 hours or more a week and meet basic admissions requirements would be “the most principled way of forcing employees to face their flawed logic and accept the harsh realities of their lot in life.”
“I believe it will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people,” said Schultz. “Let’s face it, there’s nothing else they’ll be able to do with a philosophy degree. They’ll be college-educated Starbucks baristas for life. Theoretically, everyone wins.”
The unemployment rate for recent philosophy graduates hovers near 11 percent, with philosophy majors being twice as likely to accept a low-paying retail job as the average graduate.
Loraine Waters, 29, has been blending Frappuccinos for the company since becoming a single parent in 2004. Said Waters, “I used to suffer from debilitating existential angst, wondering what my life would be like if I had made better choices and finished college.”
“I’m now coming to terms with the Schultzian philosophy of advancement,” added Waters. “Our CEO [known internally as the Venti Kahuna] teaches us that we can reach for the stars, but in so doing, we’re apt to get burned worse than Chad did when he accidentally stuck his hand in the milk frother.”
Unlike many other tuition reimbursement programs, there is no obligation for those taking advantage of the Ad Infinitum plan to stay with the company after graduating. “Why bother with such needless restrictions?” asked Schultz. “They’ll quickly come to realize that there’s no such thing as free will, let alone a free lunch.”
Meal plans are not included.