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Published: Wednesday, 6/25/2014


Coffee scholars

A college degree for cappuccinos? Starbucks is helping to pay tuition costs for an online college education for thousands of its employees.

The program is available to any U.S. employee who works at least 20 hours a week and qualifies for admission to Arizona State University, Starbucks’ partner in the venture. With financial aid and government grants, many baristas will be able to earn a bachelor’s degree for free — without the usual demand that they agree to stay with their company for years or take only job-related courses.

To the 70 percent of Starbucks workers the company says are seeking a degree, the plan is welcome news. But motivated students of any background should be encouraged to attend college by sensible public policies, not just corporate generosity. For millions of other employees in the restaurant industry, such an opportunity might never arise.

A college education is increasingly out of reach for poor and middle-class Americans because of rising costs. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says: “The question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we try to do something about it?”

The appropriate response is obvious.

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