Starbucks Gift a Hard Swallow for Whiny Academicians


Full disclosure, up front: I drink Starbucks every day, Sumatra if you must know, but I brew it at home because I like the affordability factor this option provides me. I have always liked the way Starbucks goes the extra mile when it comes to its employees, especially when I consider the working environment it provides as compared to say, Walmart, but I am sure I will be informed that working at Walmart is a much more positive experience than I can imagine and working at Starbucks is a much worse experience than I have observed. I would also drink Starbucks no matter if Starbucks sent their employees to college or not. In fact, I would probably drink Starbucks just short of their employees being waterboarded, and I am sure many of us would debate the definition of “waterboarding” while drinking Starbucks.

So everyone is busy looking Starbucks’ recent educational offer in the mouth. Just about everyone has something bad to say about this offer. Students have to pay up front, economically disadvantaged students will not benefit as much as the students coming from a background that is socioeconomically privileged (read: poor students working at Starbucks are getting the shaft as compared to the more directionless “hippies” with well-off parents that have chosen the Starbucks road while maybe taking classes or no classes at the local community college). And Starbucks will not really be giving their employees that much in tuition money, because students will have to go through financial aid eligibility before the Starbucks tuition cash begins to kick in, retroactively at that.

It appears our society has become one of whiners expecting complete handouts. That I already knew before the latest Starbucks opinion taste test surrounding the great tuition giveaway with strings attached. To me it surprising that so many academics are criticizing the Starbucks offer, considering it will enable more students to go to college. It is equally surprising to me because I thought academics know all-too-well what it is like to obtain a scholarship, work as a teaching assistant, and find all sorts of ways to work to help pay for one’s education. The Starbucks way seems like a great deal, if we must use commercial terms to discuss it, compared to many other ways academics have paid and paved their way through school.

I am glad it’s Starbucks that is being discussed. Can you imagine the added vitriol if the sponsor of this offer were an ammunitions company, a nuclear weapons producer, even a doughnut company? The latter would be attacked for serving up sugar and grease to a nation in a health crisis.

The only situation that could cause more of an outrage with a tuition giveaway would be an announcement by Texas Governor Rick Perry that death row inmates would be eligible for free college tuition. If he specified these inmates would be eligible no matter how far away from their scheduled or projected time of execution, there would be an outcry worse than Marlon Brandon’s animalistic “Stella.” The cruelty of it all! To earn an education and then not have the life to use it! Or wait, there probably would not be an outcry. Many academics would posit that it is time we gave death row inmates a chance to obtain a college degree, and this is a first step in the right direction.

After all, too often arguments about education and money remain “academic,” sadly a term that has found its meaning exactly because of instant criticism by academics as soon as something good comes along. And it lasts until the next good thing comes along. Let’s hope that is the case, so everyone can go about drinking his/her Starbucks in peace again, at least as far as it concerns Starbucks and the great tuition giveaway. And yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I am also guilty of being an academic and guilty of academic discussions, but sometimes I just have to hit that “Alt-Ac” button and look through its viewfinder.


2 thoughts on “Starbucks Gift a Hard Swallow for Whiny Academicians

  1. I live in Berkeley, so I drink Peet’s, not its metastasized spinoff, Starbucks. Be that as it may, however, I acknowledge that by contemporary standards Starbucks appears to be a relatively enlightened employer. And Arizona State is in some respects a constructively innovative institution, although I will remain skeptical about an online program that relies heavily on Pearson for its technology and materials. But I don’t think it’s impertinent to point out, as I did in a comment on Brian Mitchell’s post, that the Starbucks-ASU program will have a more limited impact than much of the media reporting on it would suggest. It’s a positive move, I suspect, but hardly worthy of the kinds of accolades it has received in some quarters. If that makes me an academic whiner, so be it. And, by the way, maybe it’s because I live in a university town, but many of the baristas I’ve met already have B.A. degrees. Shouldn’t it also be a concern that serving coffee is the best job they can get?

  2. What is the cost delta for Sumatra consumed at the store versus at home?
    You may be robbing your local barristas of their tuition money!

    If the barristas can figure out how to brew some of the wacko blends in the store, they should have no problem working the tuition refund maze Starbucks has created.

    Anyone up for Ruger school?

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.