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Starbucks College Achievement Plan

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Yes, your teen can go to college for free. Seriously. Let me show you how to extract the most out of what they’re offering so your teen can grab this deal.

Starbucks (the coffee chain) is offering their employees free tuition through Arizona State University. We’ll go into the details below, but first let me translate this into “HS4CC-speak” and give you what I think are the 15 most important points:

  1. Technically, your teen can’t enroll in the full-tuition program until you graduate them from high school, but I’m going to show you a better timeline that let’s them start earning college credit much earlier and has them ready on Day 1 after high school graduation.
  2. Your teen has to choose an online bachelor’s degree. This program only works with the online majors, but there are over 100 of them (listed below). An advantage is that they won’t have to pay expensive college housing. You’re already thinking it, so let me tell you, “Yes, they can transfer these credits to a different (on campus) program elsewhere.”
  3. Will your teen’s degree say “online” anywhere on the degree? NO!! “Arizona State University’s diplomas don’t specify whether you earn your degree online or in person. All diplomas and transcripts simply say “Arizona State University.”
  4. This program has nothing to do with the ASU Universal Learner program that we love; however, your Universal Learner classes will transfer into this program.
  5. Your teen can earn up to 135 free ASU credits.
  6. ASU will not award college credit for Sophia, Straighterline, Studycom, Coopersmith, Onlinedegree, or Saylor.
  7. ASU will allow up to 60 credits by exam. This includes CLEP, AP, and DSST – but they do NOT accept every exam. The number of credits awarded will be based on the ACE catalog as of the day you took the exam. See full list of all accepted and not accepted exams here. NOTE they award crazy huge amounts of college credit for French, Spanish, or German CLEP (up to 16 credits!!!) Since CLEP is free (AP and DSST are not), I strongly suggest stocking up on CLEP credit!
  8. ASU will accept dual enrollment, ASU Universal Learner, and Outlier (U Pitt) credit.
  9. As you do your research, be sure you’re in the right portal. ASU has partner portals and they are all different. Your browser bar should look like this:
  10. Your teen will have to apply for financial aid using FAFSA form. If your teen qualifies for scholarships or a Pell Grant, the awards are used first and Starbucks pays the rest. In other words, you will not be able to get an overage check under this program.
  11. Colleges sometimes offer a financial aid “package” that includes loans – you do NOT need a loan!! Books are the only out of pocket expense, and you can cash flow those.
  12. This is NOT reimbursement- Starbucks pays each semester up front.
  13. If your teen quits or is fired they do not have to pay back the benefit.
  14. Your teen is not obligated to stay with Starbucks after they earn the degree or transfer.
  15. ASU recently purchased Ashford University (a failing for profit) and rebranded it as “ASU Global” but be aware that this is NOT that!! This program is through the real (original) university.

What is the program?

Every eligible U.S. partner working part- or full-time receives 100% tuition coverage for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program.

Starbuck’s Suggested Timeline

Follow these steps to apply to the Starbucks College Achievement Plan

(Note: you have to be a high school graduate to enroll at ASU.)

  1. Become a partner – Not a current partner? Join the team and become benefits-eligible.
  2. Request information – Use this form for an ASU enrollment coach to reach out to you.
  3. Apply to ASU – Once you’ve gathered enough information, apply to ASU. Even if you might not be admissible, you can earn your admission through Pathway to Admission. Apply today!
  4. Send transcripts – Request your school(s) to send official transcripts to ASU. Your enrollment coach can help.
  5. Complete your financial aid file – The program requires the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) along with any required documentation to be completed before the first day of your first session and every year. Visit to get started. Check with your enrollment coach if you have questions.

HS4CC Strategy Before the Timeline

Starbucks is very clear that you have to be an “eligible partner” to qualify (employee) and this can get a little confusing depending on whether you are working full time or part time. Read full policy here. My strategy and suggested timeline assumes your teen will work PART-TIME in high school and beyond.

If you want your teen’s ELIGIBILITY to begin on Day 1 after high school graduation, I recommend that your teen start working at Starbucks anytime in 11th or 12th grade, but making a commitment to working 20 hours per week starting in January of the year they graduate high school.

“You establish initial benefits eligibility the first day of the second month after receiving at least 240 total hours over three full, consecutive months.”

High School: Accumulate college credits in advance by carefully selecting CLEP exams that fit into your ASU degree plan (max 60). ASU classes are free later under this program, but CLEP exams are free NOW. These will save your teen time later!

When you visit the Starbucks portal and look at degrees, you’ll only see partial degree plans listed- in other words it won’t tell you that you need American Government or College Algebra. What will help you plan, is knowing that every ASU major has the same general education requirement (ASU calls this General Studies Requirement) for all degrees, so you can be sure that your CLEP exams are filling these requirements in advance by looking here. The ASU advisors will not help you pick CLEP exams in high school, but I like these 7 exams as “very safe” choices that not only work at ASU, but at most every college that allows CLEP and probably fit into your homeschool easily.

  1. CLEP College Algebra, 3 credits (or DSST Math for Liberal Arts, 3 credits)
  2. CLEP History of the United States 1, 3 credits
  3. CLEP History of the United States 2, 3 credits
  4. CLEP American Government, 3 credits
  5. CLEP Introductory Psychology, 3 credits
  6. CLEP Introductory Sociology, 3 credits
  7. CLEP Foreign Language (Spanish, French, German), up to 16 credits

As you look at the CLEP and General Studies charts, you’ll see “DEC” next to some exams. That means that ASU doesn’t have a perfect match- so the class is accepted, but be really careful since it may not fit exactly as you expect.

Full Degree Maps

You can use their link to all degree maps. I like these tools because they allow you to see every course that your teen must complete for each degree. I like to look at courses that may give my son trouble (how much math?) or expensive classes that may require labs at home (science!) or how many fun classes are part of the program. Just be sure that you remember to confirm that it is one of the degrees ALSO offered in the Starbucks portal!! ASU offers a zillion degrees, and not all appear on the Starbucks list.

For anyone interested in this program, I highly suggest checking out one of the Open House events. This event is not hosted by HS4CC; it’s an ASU event so they may not have a lot of answers about how credit earned in high school works.

Degrees Available

Full clickable list

Starbucks College Achievement Virtual Open House

March 23rd from 9:30 to 11 a.m. PST.  Register now!

HS4CC ASU Universal Learner Workshop (info about the Starbucks plan included)

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