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That's one question Starbucks (SBUX) will encounter as it begins offering employees free tuition for two years of online classes at Arizona State University. About 70% of Starbucks' 135,000 U.S. employees have not completed undergraduate degrees, and most are eligible for the program, the company said.
Employees aren't required to stay with the company after receiving their degrees, but CEO Howard Schultz isn't concerned about a mass exodus.
"This is an investment in our people, the most valuable asset that Starbucks has," he told CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow. "It's not the coffee, it's not the real estate, it's human capital and the person that wears the green apron."
When employees who graduate take off their caps and gowns, it's entirely possible they'll also hang up those green aprons.
But Nick Setyan, an analyst who follows the industry, expects "there's going to be more than enough options" for those employees at the Starbucks of the future.
"They're consistently evolving in terms of what the stores are. I look at Starbucks as a consumer products company, not necessarily a coffee retailer," said Setyan, who is vice president of equity research at Wedbush Securities. The approximately $30,000 cost of two years of tuition is worth it to keep quality employees with the company, he said.