Baristas, Here's What You Could Study at "Starbucks U"

Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo credit: Starbucks/Getty. Illustration credit: Rachel Tepper

Here’s some good news for Starbucks baristas: In an unprecedented move, the coffee chain is sending its employees to college for up to two years—for free.

Interested? You wouldn’t have to move near a college campus. Courses are available online through Arizona State University. The only qualifying requirements are that employees work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to ASU.

Starbucks will pay full tuition for employees with a couple years of college credit already under their belts, and will contribute a significant chunk of change to those with fewer credits. 

And although you might think that would wed an employee to the company for life, there are no strings attached: Employees don’t have to remain with Starbucks after graduation.

"There has been a zero sum game that the only thing that matters is profitability," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said during a Monday night appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”You can’t just focus on profitability. An enduring great company has to be based on more than that. Now, Starbucks is a people-based company.”

"Oh, my God, that’s what’s in the coffee?!” Stewart shot back.

Here’s a look at some courses that might strike the fancy of prospective Starbucks employees (and what they might do with them post-graduation!):

Course: Microeconomic Analysis of Food Markets
Description:By applying the basic concepts of microeconomics to real-world data, this course allows the student to not only gain a book-oriented understanding of how businesses in the food industry behave, but practical, hands-on experience that lasts far beyond the classroom.”
It might inspire you to… start your own catering business.

Course: Screenwriting Fundamentals
Description:Studies the creativity and the technique of screenwriting for the conventional narrative film and for TV; student writing exercises culminate in a script for micro cinema.”
It might inspire you to… write the next great food-inspired movie, a la “The Hundred-Foot Journey" or "Chef.

Course: Sustainable Cities
Description:Introduces technological, social, and cultural principles and innovations for cities under the notion of sustainability and sustainable development within the global, regional, and local contexts.”
It might inspire you to… kickstart a line of sustainable coffee beans.

Course: Senior Design Laboratory I
Description: ”Design process: research, concept, feasibility, simulation, specifications, benchmarking, and proposal generation. Technical communications and team skills enrichment. 
It might inspire you to… design the ultimate espresso machine.

Course: Human Nutrition
Description: ”Principles of human nutrition. Emphasizes nutrient metabolism and the relationships between diet and disease.
It might inspire you to… develop a nutritious (and delicious) line of kale snacks (perhaps using lollipop kale).

Now get to it!