April 7, 2015 10:28 AM

Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz

Starbucks announced it’s expanding a program rolled out last year offering college tuition reimbursement to employees.

Originally, the program — a partnership between Starbucks and the University of Arizona — focused on employees with enough previous college credit to be considered juniors or seniors by offering full tuition coverage for the completion of their undergraduate degrees through the university’s online degree program. On Monday, the coffee chain announced it was expanding its offering to cover its employees for the entire four years required for an undergraduate degree.

“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,” says Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz in a statement issued Monday. “By giving our partners [employees] 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.”

So far, the company’s tuition reimbursement program has attracted 2,000 employees, and with Monday’s expansion, the company hopes to assist thousands more with a $250 million investment aimed at turning 25,000 of its employees into college graduates by the year 2025.

According to this report by Forbes, more than 70 percent of Starbucks’ 182,000 employees are without a college degree.

Employees entering the program will not be beholden to continue working with the company upon graduation.

The program centers entirely on ASU’s online degree program, but like college degree programs undertaken in the traditional brick-and-mortar setting, Starkbucks’ students will also be required to maintain minimum GPA requirements to remain in good standing with the university.

In an interview with Forbes, ASU spokesman Mark Johnson says all students — whether they attend class in person or through an Internet connection — are held to the same standard. And commenting on the partnership with Starbucks, Johnson tells Forbes, “The College Achievement Plan has been a powerful demonstration of what is possible when an enlightened and innovative corporation joins forces with a forward-thinking research university.”

Read the Flipping Paper!

While the members of this diverse group of Acadiana women can’t all say they were firsts, each of them has contributed to our community in ways too countless to capture in 500-word profiles ...