16 June 2014

Getting What You Pay For (On Starbucks and ASU)

Starbucks has agreed to foot the bill for its employees who want to go to college.  The catch: they can only get their college education online and they have to do it through Arizona State University.  That's still a whole lot of opportunity right there, but unfortunately not for the two students featured in the New York Times article about the Starbucks/ASU partnership.
The Starbucks program sounds like a boon to Abraham G. Cervantes, 24, who lives in the San Pedro section of Los Angeles with his mother and two of his brothers, and would be the first in his family to earn a college degree. “I’m the only one in the family with a steady job,” he said. In fact, he has two jobs — one at Starbucks, and another at a music studio. 
While studying at a community college, he discovered classical music, and fell in love with Chopin, Bach and Beethoven, though at home he can practice only on a worn-out piano. He said he dreamed of being a professor of music, but after five years of trying to mesh his class and work schedules, he has not finished his associate’s degree. 
“Working two jobs, you don’t always have time to attend school,” he said.
The new Starbucks program “would be a huge benefit to me,” Mr. Cervantes said, giving him flexibility and eliminating the commute to and from school.
The online music courses available though ASU are as follows:

81926   MUS 231Laughing to Music308/21 - 10/10(A) ASU OnlineHU  Schildkret
87160   MUS 347Jazz in America308/21 - 10/10(A) ASU OnlineHU & C  Mook
89195   MUS 347Jazz in America310/15 - 12/05(B) ASU OnlineHU & C  Mook
89197   MUS 354Topic: Beatles308/21 - 10/10(A) ASU OnlineHU  Shellans
89199   MUS 354Topic: Classic Rock: 1950-1975308/21 - 10/10(A) ASU OnlineHU  Campbell
89200   MUS 354Topic: The Beatles After the Beatles310/15 - 12/05(B) ASU OnlineHU  Shellans
89202   MUS 354Topic: Rock Since 1975310/15 - 12/05(B) ASU OnlineHU  Campbell
89203   MUS 354Topic: Elvis310/15 - 12/05(B) ASU OnlineHU  Shellans
89208   MUS 355American Music308/21 - 10/10(A) ASU OnlineHU & C & H  Mook
89210   MUS 362Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture308/21 - 10/10(A) ASU OnlineHU & C  Mook
84034   MUS 371World Music308/21 - 10/10(A) ASU OnlineHU & G  Little
 Note: no classical music, no music performance options (though how one would study music performance online anyway is a puzzle).  These courses can be taken as electives or as part of the Bachelor of Liberal Studies program, but there is no music major available online.

The situation is similar for the other student featured in the article:
Ms. Lopez, who lives in the San Fernando Valley, got a full-time job at Starbucks and goes to a community college at night. 

“I could never see myself finishing school because it’s taken me so long to get where I am,” Ms. [Tammie R.] Lopez said. She is studying to be a sign language interpreter, but is also weighing other possibilities, such as a business degree. What Starbucks has planned, she said, completely changed her outlook. 
“I could be done with school in a couple of years — I can see it, that financial burden would be lifted,” she said. “Even if I had an emergency and I had to go out of town, I would be able to take my computer with me and not miss class.”
The business degree is definitely an option.  A tenth of the majors available through ASU online have "Business" in the title: "Business--Global Leadership," "Business--Global Logistics Management," "Business--Sustainabiity," and "Business and Communication."  Sign language interpretation is not an option.  The only course regularly offered by Arizona State appears to be a four-semester sequence in American Sign Language that can fulfill the ASU foreign-language requirement but that is not offered online.  Students interested in becoming sign-language interpreters are directed to the website for another institution that has no affiliation with Starbucks: Phoenix College.

Starbucks is offering something to its employees, but it's a circumscribed something that falls well short of the public good higher education (particularly at public institutions like ASU) could be supplying to all eligible learners, not just Starbucks employees.

1 comment :

  1. Dear Good Enough -

    I'm confused by your judgment that this program would not help these students. It depends on a lot of particulars.

    Even if ASU does not have online courses in the students' majors, they can still take ASU courses to round out non-major requirements to finish their associate's degrees. If they have primarily taken courses in their majors (and these two have), and primarily need to take non-major courses, this is especially relevant.

    Also, I don't see why you would assume that none of the online music courses are of use to Abe Cervantes in getting an associate's in music, even if they aren't in the things he loves most.

    Both of these students are most of the way toward an associate's degree. The ASU program might or might not be a help to them in finishing it - and they think it would. It is even more likely to be a help in moving on to a bachelor's.

    Nobody is suggesting that this program has everything every student would want. But it offers advantages they don't have now.

    - Richard Perez-Pena