On Monday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced that the coffee company will help foot the bill for employees who want to earn a college degree.
The company is partnering with Arizona State University to offer tuition reimbursement for an online degree for 135,000 employees. Though critics say employees will have to wait months or possibly even years before being reimbursed, the Starbucks College Achievement Plan is consistent with the company culture Scott Pelley saw when he reported on Schultz for a 60 Minutes profile in 2006.
When the two met, Schultz brought Pelley to his childhood home in the Brooklyn projects. He led Pelley through an apartment door marred by bullet holes and recalled coming home from school to find his father sitting on the couch with a broken leg.
"When he fell on the job, he basically was turned loose. He was out of work. There was no hospitalization, no health insurance, no workmen's compensation, and we were done as a family," Schultz told Pelley. "And I saw the hopelessness. I saw the plight of a working class family. I saw the fracturing of the American dream firsthand, at the age of seven. That memory scarred me."
Schultz organized his company around that memory, raising the price of Starbucks coffee so he could offer health insurance to employees who work as little as 20 hours a week. Pelley reported that Starbucks spent more on health care than coffee.
"What I've said to our own people is that we will not-- you're never supposed to say 'never,' but I said 'never'-- we will never turn our back on this benefit for our people," Schultz said.
Speaking from New York City on Monday, Schultz describes the tuition plan as another move to ensure his employees' well-being is a top priority.
"This is about the future of our company, doing what's right for our people and also, sending a message to the country that we can't build a great company and we can't build a great enduring country if we're constantly leaving people behind."