Howard Schultz on Education

Starbucks CEO; independent candidate for President until July 2019


First in family to attend college; offer same at Starbucks

I grew up poor, in the housing projects of Brooklyn, New York. No one in my family went to college before me. My parents didn't even finish high school.

My mother wanted more for me. She believed in the American Dream, and imprinted in me the belief that if I got an education and worked hard, I could create a better life for myself. In 1971, I enrolled in Northern Michigan University.

I paid for school with student loans. I worked two jobs. There were even times I had to sell my blood for some cash. Four years later, I became the first in my family to earn a college degree.

Today, all Starbucks employees can earn a four-year college degree, tuition free. The rising level of student debt is now at $1.5 trillion dollars.

Source: 2020 Presidential Campaign website HowardSchultz.com , Mar 13, 2019

Hold colleges responsible, but help students handle debt

If students are not graduating from their college, those colleges should not get federal aid from the government. We should look at ways for bringing those kids back into college and figuring out a way to delay the payments so the burden of responsibility is still there, but they can live a life in which they're not burdened every day by the trillion dollar-plus debt on the backs of students today.
Source: CNN Town Hall: 2020 presidential hopefuls , Feb 12, 2019

3,000 people graduated college on Starbucks' tuition

To create more opportunity, the company developed a first of its kind program that allows employees a chance to get a college degree, tuition free. By this spring, and I am so proud of this, about 3,000 people at the company will have graduated. Many, like me, are the first in their family to go to college.

My life experience is proof that the American Dream is, in fact, real. And that those who achieve it can pay it forward, and help others achieve it as well. I've spent my life trying to make the opportunities that were available to me, education and good jobs, available to others.

Source: Purdue Univ. speech on 2020 Presidential Campaign website , Feb 7, 2019

Supplement Pell Grants to make online college tuition-free

[I called for the Starbucks board to innovate the employee partner experience.] Online education immediately intrigued them as a possible solution.

The federal government had long provided financial assistance to students from low-income households, in the form of subsidies known as Pell Grants. Many of Starbuck's store partners were the very people that Pell Grants were created to serve: those for whom a college degree would be unattainable without financial assistance.

No such public-private funding model to provide debt-free college tuition--where students, a sponsoring company, and a university all had a stake in the outcome--exists. We had to create it.

We crunched the numbers. The likelihood of our partners' qualifying for Pell Grants made providing a college benefit more affordable for Starbucks. Whatever costs we did incur we would likely make up in the reduced turnover we anticipated such a benefit would yield.

Source: From the Ground Up, by Howard Schultz, p.173-5 , Jan 28, 2019

Private sector can do more for millennial students

Xavier McElrath-Bey had been put in foster care for stealing a candy bar at age nine, recruited by a gang, and imprisoned for 13 years. "When I was released, I joined the ranks of the opportunity youth," said the 28-year-old Xavier. "The day I walked into a Starbucks, my life changed." The store manager had given him a chance, he said. Xavier earned a master's degree while working part-time at Starbucks.

One in five millennials now live in poverty, and more members of that generation will live with their parents than other generations did. They are also about half as likely to own a home as young adults were in 1975, and, based on current trends, many won't be able to retire until they are 75. For the most impoverished and disconnected, the odds are worse.

I do believe that the private sector can do more of what it does for itself on behalf of the country--not in lieu of government programs, but in addition to the necessary roles government plays. Businesses can help innovate.

Source: From the Ground Up, by Howard Schultz, p.242-4 , Jan 28, 2019

Supporting individual's efforts to reform education locally

MSNBC and Starbucks plan to highlight examples of innovation and initiatives across communities where education and support is critical. Starting in April and every month on "Morning Joe," one individual who is a champion for education will be highlighted. These change maker profiles will include teachers, parents, entrepreneurs, students, and members of the community who are utilizing new ideas to create a positive impact on local education and local communities.
Source: Starbucks Newsroom; press release #515, "MSNBC" , May 30, 2011

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Page last updated: Apr 30, 2021