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Washington (AFP) – Starbucks has announced that it will introduce a university education aid plan for its employees in a reflection of the skyrocketing cost of higher education in the United States.

The global chain of coffee shops said its full- and part-time U.S.-based employees will be eligible for aid to complete a bachelor’s degree with Arizona State University (ASU), one of the country’s most active in providing on-line college degrees.

Nearly 70 percent of Starbucks U.S. employees are college students or young people who want to go to college.

It said that nearly half of Americans who begin college these days will not finish, largely because of high costs and difficulties in juggling jobs with the rest of their lives.

“Supporting our partners’ ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make,” the company said on its website.

The cost of higher education is a red-hot topic today in America.

Universities have become so expensive — tens of thousands of dollars per year is a common figure even at non-elite schools — that students take out loans to get degrees and are saddled with huge debts they carry with them for years.

And economists warn these debts hinder the economy by preventing these young people from doing economy-stimulating things like starting families and buying big-ticket items like houses and cars.

Employees who join the program in their third or fourth year as per ASU’s admission requirements will earn full tuition reimbursement for each year of coursework they complete toward an undergraduate degree, Starbucks said.

First and second year students will receive a partial scholarship and need-based financial aid toward “the foundational work of completing their degree. Partners will have no commitment to remain at Starbucks past graduation,” the company added.

Photo: Andrew Burton via AFP

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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