Starbucks tuition program is monumental

Starbucks might be the most generous company of all time.

Just this week, the coffee king agreed to expand its tuition program by adding $250 million towards the college pursuits of full-time and part-time employees. Starbucks isn’t just helping employees pay for college. It is going to pay for the whole shebang: the entirety of tuition. This, so workers can graduate without any collegiate debt to speak of.

That’s nice. Actually, the Starbucks tuition program is monumental.

I wish this opportunity existed when I was forging my way through college.

Get your college tuition here.
Get your college tuition here.

I’ve written quite a bit on the Starbucks brand – most recently, about their store expansion and its increasing selections of foods. While I do not always agree with all of the company’s decisions (selling more food, in particular), I do believe that its brand is rooted in honorable principals.

One such principal is that Starbucks always seems to honor its employees.

What does it offer: employees have full medical, stocks and sabbaticals, just to name a few benefits. Yet the gesture of paying for college might be the grandest of all.

Why exactly is Starbucks paying for school? It seems like a hefty promise to make, after all.

Partly, this is for employee retention, of course. Beyond that, however, this plan is built around the company’s recent promise to hire 10,000 “Opportunity Youth” young people who are out of work or out of school without any job prospects.

Now, thanks to Starbucks, those who thought they could only dream of expanding their worlds actually can, simply by filling out an application and getting hired.

In this day, where corporate giants do their very best to curtail employees earning power (think Walmart and the fast food companies), greedily socking away money for themselves, it’s refreshing to know there are those rarities that exist and buck the conventional trends.

It’s a wonderful thing that Starbucks is doing. Bravo.

The good and the bad of the Starbucks brand

For those of us, like me, who can’t start the day without a strong cup of coffee, Starbucks remains an interesting company that is always trying to find ways to be one of the most powerful consumer brands around.

At Wednesday’s shareholder meeting, the company announced several initiatives that hold promise. And a few others that are an overreach.

On the positive, Starbucks will begin testing delivery in Seattle and New York City, which I’ve always thought was an idea whose time has come. The name of the game for consumers in this technological age is simplicity. The easier you can make it for consumers to buy your product, the better off you are.

Starbucks brand
One of its better endeavors.

That may seem like an obvious statement. But look around you and you’ll see how companies think so inside out that their processes become more complex than they should be. (Think banks.)

The Starbucks Brand

The Starbucks brand is looking to simplicity in a few endeavors. The delivery system would only work in dense urban areas, but I can imagine it being a boon to the brand and shut out competitors. Starbucks is also instituting a mobile ordering and payment app, which it should have done long ago.

I guess you could also say that its plan to expand with more locations, adding more than 3,500 units in the next five years in the US, is also about simplicity, but I worry about that one. Starbucks is entering McDonald’s territory where there’s one on every corner and you begin to lose emotional preference. You become only about location. (Think pharmacies.)

But the one that really concerns me is its plan to add more food. Starbucks will add more lunch options and afternoon snacks, but the brand doesn’t have permission to grow later in the day with food. Its brand owns coffee, with a large, emotional footprint in breakfast. Increasing your presence into other dayparts is always a risky proposition for brands that have been linked with a certain daypart. (Think Taco Bell and its weak attempt to enter the breakfast market.)

The overall concern would be that Starbucks believes it can dominate more than it can. You don’t want to hold a brand back, but as Clint Eastwood said in the Dirty Harry movie Magnum Force, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”