NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Starbucks is sending 1,000 people to college next week.
They’re the first wave of workers who will get online classes at Arizona State University all or partly paid for by the coffee chain.
The benefit from the program, which was announced in June, works out to as much as $15,000 a year for each of them, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.
The workers who are getting Starbucks’ support are taking classes across the spectrum of the 40 bachelor’s degree programs offered. About half those accepted are baristas, with another third consisting of shift supervisors.
An additional 800 employees were accepted for the online program by Arizona State, but won’t begin classes with this first group.
“Some [employees] are still in the process of deciding when they want to enroll and begin classes,” she wrote in an e-mail, adding that the tuition offer is good for a year.
Here’s how the program works: College juniors and seniors get 100% tuition, and freshmen and sophomores get around a fifth of their tuition covered. The first group is about 70% of the first Starbucks class at ASU, and the second group — which may face up to $23,000 in tuition bills over four years — makes up the rest.
The effort is working as a recruiting tool: Starbucks said about 8,000 of the job applications received since the program’s announcement mentioned the program as the reason they applied.
“This is an investment in our people, the most valuable asset that Starbucks has,” Schultz said. “It’s not the coffee, it’s not the real estate, it’s human capital and the person that wears the green apron.”
If any of those applicants got jobs, though, they’ll be waiting to get into the college program. All the workers picked for tuition reimbursement have been with Starbucks for at least a year, and a quarter have been with the company more than five years.
Seventy percent of Starbucks’ 135,000 workers don’t have college degrees.