FREE TUITION FOR STARBUCKS WORKERS Sounds too good to be true.
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  • Free college classes for all Starbucks employees sounds too good to be true, and it is.

Starbucks is getting a ton of gushing press for supposedly offering free college classes to its employees—CEO Howard Schultz was on The Daily Show last night winning applause from the audience and proclaiming, "We've tried to embrace humanity as a core competency." (Does that sound to anyone else like an admission that capitalism is anti-humanity by default?)

The program is not without its faults, as Ned Resnikoff reports for MSNBC:

A joint statement from Starbucks and ASU hailed the new tuition reimbursement plan as “a powerful, first-of-its-kind program designed to unleash [a] lifetime opportunity for thousands of eligible part-time and full-time U.S. partners (employees).” Under the new plan, employees who complete their freshman and sophomore years at ASU Online would receive a major discount, and the remaining two years would be totally free.

Sounds great, right? Not according to Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who said she found it “incredibly problematic” that Starbucks has decided to limit its tuition assistance to a single online university.

“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.”

As Resnikoff explains, Wal-Mart made a similar announcement four years ago, partnering with the for-profit online American Public University and providing workers and family members with partial tuition grants. In fact, many companies have similar programs, but few employees take advantage of them while they toil in full-time positions. The tuition programs help the businesses, though, retain "high performing staff."

"One day, our campaigns to make college free will win and we’ll abolish student loan debt," activist Melissa Byne says of the Starbucks announcement. "Until then, poorer low-wage workers will be the fodder for huge corporations trying to get better PR off their struggle."