Arizona State University agreement with Starbucks contributes to higher education privatization

Source: Mukund Rathi, Daily Texan, July 14, 2014

…The Starbucks plan only applies to Starbucks employees pursuing an online degree, which has consistently fallen short of goals around retention, passing, metrics of learning and degree completion.

Starbucks will bear no more than 30 percent of any student’s four-year tuition and fees. There are two parts of the Starbucks plan: a scholarship that reduces the sticker tuition amount and reimbursements for out-of-pocket payments. The scholarship is funded by ASU, not Starbucks, and reduces tuition about $6,500 from the $30,000 for freshman and sophomore years, and $12,600 from $30,000 for junior and senior years. After that, a student may have his or her tuition further reduced by federal grants, military education benefits or need-based aid. Then, juniors and seniors must pay out-of-pocket (or take out loans) for what remains. If they complete 21 credits, which costs about $10,000, within 18 months, Starbucks will issue a reimbursement for that amount. Starbucks will not reimburse any tuition for freshmen and sophomores, meaning that ASU’s scholarship for those first two years is essentially paying students to work while they are in school….

Starbucks is not doing this for charitable reasons. It has two profit-related goals, the first of which is broad public relations. … The second goal is to advertise the Starbucks brand to the college….

….The ASU-Starbucks contract shows that ASU will be fulfilling most of the responsibilities to run the program, but it also requires ASU to assist Starbucks with marketing projects such as joint press releases, promotional “swag,” social media communications, and online advertising for anyone on Starbucks wifi. Starbucks advertising will be present even within educational spaces: ASU must work with Starbucks to develop a mandatory, one-week, non-credit course for students in the Starbucks plan, develop coursework such as “modules on retail management”, construct ASU study spaces inside Starbucks stores, and deliver coursework over Starbucks wifi. They want students who are working at a Starbucks store to also complete their college education there, with a few tasty beverages to get through the boring videos and all-nighters…..

…. Most recently, Powers has begun pushing for a privatization overhaul of student services, staff jobs and faculty recruitment as part of the “Smarter Systems” plan. UT hired the consulting company Accenture to develop this plan, despite its notorious failures with the state of Texas. After a 2005-2006 privatization contract with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Accenture was denounced by the Texas Comptroller for forcing unnecessary “massive state worker layoffs.” Smarter Systems advocates UT implementing “Shared Services,” a controversial administrative centralization plan which UT students, staff and faculty have opposed due to staff layoffs. Smarter Systems advocates restricting faculty recruitment and research to “corporate leaders” and areas with greatest “commercial success” — essentially, applying the profit motive to education. Like the Starbucks plan, Smarter Systems seeks to profit from students: it advocates privatizing student dorms, food and parking. This would mean that Jester, other dorms, and all of the subsidized UT cafeterias and parking lots would be run by private companies, and thus also have higher costs, euphemized in Smarter Systems as “market rates.” Under Powers, UT has already implemented the in-store study spaces part of the Starbucks plan — the Student Activity Center and Texas Union are food-monopolized by private companies (with a Starbucks in each)…..