This week Starbucks and Arizona State University announced a joint tuition-degree type-ish plan. I am not sure what to call it because it’s a hybrid of what we consider employee sponsored tuition reimbursement plans, workforce development programs at universities, and some kind of technofuturist vision of higher education access. So, in the way of my people, I’m just adding “-ish” to the term and moving on.
Goldie Blumenstyk did her good reporting thing over at CHE by following the money in the corporate-uni deal. To quote Goldie quoting ASU leaders who should know:
Starbucks also had said that the program would include an upfront “partial tuition scholarship,” thanks to an “investment” from Starbucks and ASU. Ms. Harper on Monday said she was “not able to disclose the specifics of the financial arrangement” of that investment.
But according to Arizona State’s president, Michael M. Crow, “none” of the funding for the upfront scholarships is coming from Starbucks. It’s coming from ASU.
Sara Goldrick-Rab is already on it with a critical interrogation of the ASU online division’s
for-profit* profit-generating status as well as the efficacy of online instruction for diverse student groups:
“ASU Online is a profit venture,” said Goldrick-Rab. “And basically, these two businesses have gotten together and created a monopoly on college ventures for Starbucks employees.”
Tweep @MattinToledo offered us a copy of Starbuck’s former tuition reimbursement plan (starting on page 194; yes, 194).
The gist of it all seems to be that ASU gets a captured student-consumer audience in exchange for tuition discounting at its for-profit online division. Starbucks gets to constrain educational choices of employees that choose to use their benefit to a provider that will never conflict with an employee’s work schedule. It’s prognostication, of course, but it seems that lower income employees who qualify for the most need-based student aid will pay less for the online degree program than will those who qualify for less.
And, this is all dependent on student aid access (which pays the bill upfront), persistence (which is complicated by working, class position and other social locations), and keeping your job. My read of that is Starbucks gets to minimize its contribution to tuition assistance by funneling aspirational student-workers into the student aid system and ASU gets to extract profit from student aid on a sliding scale where lower income students are the most profitable human widgets.
What a strange, unique business plan…that was perfected by for-profit colleges thirty years ago.
That plan goes something like this: maximize constrained educational choices that are a function of labor market changes; commodify inequality by organizing for the highest need students; extract guaranteed funds from public coffers; call it access; wash and repeat.
I’ve argued vehemently for progressive taxation of the private sector to fund higher education. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind with increased corporate responsibility.
*Doug Lederman made a good point about the distinction between for-profit (the classification I often work with) as opposed to profit generating. I move between the two analytically in one post. D’oh. It’s one of those fine points that matters most probably to a few people but worth making. So, I’ll call the online division profit generating to be clear.