Starbucks to give workers a full ride for college

Howard Schultz's inspiring challenge to corporate America

Want to get a college degree for free? Try getting a job at Starbucks.

Starbucks (SBUX) said Monday it will offer employees full tuition at Arizona State University's online program, giving them the chance to earn a bachelor's degree for free.

The coffee chain already offers its baristas two years of undergraduate tuition at ASU under its existing college achievement program. Now the company is extending that to four years for most of its workers.

Here are more details:

Who can apply: All full and part-time U.S. employees who do not already have a four-year degree. Starbucks says 70% of its workers do not have a bachelor's degree.

Who's not eligible: Workers at Starbucks' "licensed stores," such as those located inside grocery stores.

Can you leave Starbucks after graduating: Yes. Employees will have no obligation to remain at Starbucks after they graduate.

How does it work: Starbucks employees who qualify will receive a scholarship from ASU that covers 42% of the cost for each credit of course work. Starbucks will pay the remaining 58%, minus any other scholarships the employee receives.

How often will Starbucks reimburse you: Starbucks will reimburse tuition costs at the end of each semester, as opposed to the end of each year as it currently does. So, employees who drop out or leave the company will be responsible for paying tuition for that semester.

Related: This kid got into every single Ivy League college

More than 140,000 out of a total of 191,000 employees are eligible for the program.

Starbucks says the tuition reimbursement program is aimed at helping its staff, particularly underprivileged young workers, afford the education they need to succeed.

Starbucks paying for college? Really.

Currently, there are about 2,000 Starbucks workers enrolled in ASU online courses.

"For me, working at Starbucks is the opportunity for a better future," said Markelle Cullom, a three-year Starbucks employee enrolled in the program, according to the company's news release.

Tuition for ASU's online program is about $15,000 per year. The university offers 49 online bachelor's degree programs, in subjects ranging from business administration to art history.

Over the next 10 years, Starbucks plans to spend at least $250 million to help 25,000 employees graduate.

In addition to helping employees get ahead, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said the economy will benefit from having more educated workers in the labor force.

"By giving our partners access to four years of full tuition reimbursement, we will provide them a critical tool for lifelong opportunity," said Schultz.

Related: How this student beat the odds to get into Harvard

The company points out there are nearly six million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not working or in school. With the proper education, Starbucks says these so-called "opportunity youth" represent a "huge, untapped talent pool for American businesses."

Schultz has been outspoken on a number of controversial social issues, including same-sex marriage and race relations.

The CEO has also cultivated a reputation for being supportive of workers' rights at a time when low-wage workers have been agitating for higher pay and better benefits.

In addition to tuition reimbursement, Starbucks offers benefits including healthcare and 401(k) matching for both full and part-time workers.

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