Starbucks employees brew degrees

Balancing employment and education can be a nightmare for many individuals, which can either result in one undermining the other or the students avoiding one entirely. In an age of advancing technology and ever-increasing tuition, online schooling provides millions of students with a flexible and sustainable path for a better price. For former Clackamas Community College transfers and Arizona State University graduates Jessica Bradley and Sara Hodgkinson, online schooling was exactly the platform they needed to succeed.

Both Bradley and Hodgkinson were employed at the local Starbucks across from the Oregon City campus; while enrolled at CCC for a transfer degree Bradley was approached by her manager who suggested she take advantage of the full ride program for ASU. After some hesitation, she decided to give one term of online school a shot. “I noticed that the world became my classroom,” Bradley said. “I wasn’t confined to four walls and I could literally go anywhere and listen to my lecture and go over my notes.” Starbucks introduced the plan in June  2014 and has provided over 20,000 workers with tuition, according to the ASU website. The plan requires workers to have been employed for at least six months and maintain a minimum of 20 hours in a work week. Starbucks provides a 42% scholarship each semester for undergraduate students, the employee is responsible for paying the remainder. At the end of the semester the remaining cost will be reimbursed via the employees pay stub so long as they maintain acceptable grades. This incentivizes students to push through the process rather than turn on their heels and run when midterms roll around.

One of the most prominent challenges the pair encountered was one that plagues any person looking to succeed in their career or in life — time management. “If you can’t time manage it makes it extremely difficult because it keeps coming,” said Hodgkinson. “I became a bit of a procrastinator in college, that’s what I should have been better about. I would have been way less stressed.” The key for Bradley and Hodgkinson was a planner and an itemized list, respectively. “I would write everything for the week that I needed to get done,” Hodgkinson said. “Whether it was chapters, lectures or quizzes, I had to write it down.”

While having a specially crafted work-school schedule does alleviate much of the stress that comes with the situation, the grind doesn’t just come to a halt. “I was the primary opener of my store which means I was up serving coffee at four in the morning,” said Bradley. “Depending on the time I’d go home, maybe take a nap and then start homework.”

Both Bradley and Hodgkinson graduated in spring with majors in psychology and are both employed at CCC; they recommend their path to success to others if they’re confident in their ability to manage time. “I think you have [to have] the right mindset for it,” Hodgkinson said. “Though I think it’s very doable for everyone, but you have to be geared and ready to go.”

The OC Point Starbucks displays the certificates of two graduates from ASU whose employer saw their potential and encouraged them to push for a higher education.

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Jared Preble