PelotonU offers alternative to Starbucks’ online education

PelotonU provides full-time mentors, a dedicated study space, supplemental educational seminars, a $3,000 annual scholarship, and tutoring to make sure students have the resources to earn their online degree.

Más Wired | July 7, 2014 | 4:41 pm
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By Hudson Baird, Executive Director of PelotonU

Popular opinion suggests the overwhelming priority for Latinos is immigration reform. Yet a study from the Pew Research Center found immigration was the fourth most important issue, with education taking first place. In Texas this is especially important, where only 16% of Latinos hold a Bachelor’s degree and only 40% of hispanic students graduate from college in six years. Current two and four years schools are struggling to graduate minority students, and this makes new approaches to post-secondary completion especially relevant.

Earlier this month Starbucks stepped into the conversation by announcing a comprehensive online education assistance program for its employees. They are the first service industry employer to take a bold stride towards providing their staff the resources to graduate from college. This program joins an impressive list of other firsts claimed by Starbucks, including being the first company to commercialize the coffee industry and the first service industry employer to offer competitive benefits for staff.

Formally titled the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, this has the potential to usher in an innovative era in employer-supported education. The plan offers a full reimbursement for students in their last two years of college who are enrolled in the online program at Arizona State University (ASU).

While many approach online education with skepticism, enrollment in online programs has been growing at four times the nationwide college-going rate. Over 20% of college students now include online education as part of their degree completion plan. As college debt continues to rise to over one trillion dollars at an average cost of $40,000 per graduate, flexible and affordable opportunities are becoming more attractive.

Though Starbucks’ plan is commendable, there are risks to consider. Starbucks employees still need to gain admission independently, and ASU is wary of students they deem unlikely to graduate, meaning some employees will not be able to get in. In addition, while ASU is lauded for their online platform, it’s simply a digitized brick and mortar curriculum. Students study in semesters and juggle multiple classes at a pace set by their instructor. Other online universities, like Western Governors University – Texas offer more effective competency-based degrees. These allow the learner to take one class at a time, personalize their study plan, and prioritize the parts of the curriculum where they need extra help.

Finally, there’s the risk of degree completion. Online learning is primarily an individual affair, and yet a college education is most beneficial within an educational community. While ASU promises academic advising, periodic emails are rarely enough for a struggling student. Starbucks will need to tread carefully to ensure their staff has the necessary academic support or it is likely that they will not see many degrees come out of their investment. If students falter, they’re left holding debt and no credential.

PelotonU, an Austin-based non-profit offers a proven alternative. PelotonU offers the same scholarship and online education from the Starbucks plan and then adds the necessary support to ensure students graduate. Specifically, PelotonU provides full-time mentors, a dedicated study space, supplemental educational seminars, and tutoring to make sure students have the resources to earn their degree. This, in addition to a $3,000 annual scholarship.

Service industry employees are beset by shrinking hours and stagnant pay. While Starbucks’ investment addresses an immediate concern for their staff and offers both greater brand equity and long-term employee loyalty, PelotonU bridges a fundamental gap in setting up students for success.

PelotonU is now accepting applications for their October cohort. If you live in Central Texas and you or someone you know is seeking a college degree, find details and the application here.

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12 Comments

  1. intellichick
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Very impressed by the PelotonU concept of education with additional life coaching…data shows that for minority students specifically a strong support / mentoring system (or lack thereof) can make the difference between college success or college failure, or even taking that first step. This is a holistic approach to helping students succeed in college and life which has the potential to change many lives. I think this approach will pay dividends in the students’ lives and in the community as a whole.

  2. Amanda
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Really exciting advances here. There’s a lot we can learn from PeletonU’s model.

  3. Rene
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Peloton U sounds like a thoughtful alternative to the current
    college debt crisis, helping students succeed through accountability and support.

  4. cmnasti
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I had no idea PelotonU existed until I read this article. What a tremendous, innovative idea to help learners achieve educational and life success. I’ll certainly share this information with others. Well done!

  5. Deb
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Education is key in changing life trajectory. Peloton U can serve as that life change for students who may need more meaningful support. Quality mentorship contributes to success at any level, but is vital for unravelling the challenges of online education for college students.

  6. Hayden
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Great idea!

  7. Atx
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Very interesting concept, and a great alternative to the ever-growing college debt problem plaguing this country. I’ll definitely keep my eyes on this!

  8. K Richard
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    PeletonU is an attractive way for small and medium size employers to leverage the benefits of a Starbucks College Achievement Plan for their own employees without needing Starbucks’ billion dollar clout.

  9. lillygirl
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I love that PelotonU provides mentors and more for the students. That is so important, and, along with the scholarship, makes this a worthy choice! Sharing this…

  10. Teach
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    As an Austin educator, I am incredibly excited to follow this new program!

  11. Thana
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m impressed with the comprehensive way PelotonU supports their students.

  12. Mary Roland
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    So glad that this organization realizes that support has to coincide with offer. So many programs are offered without providing these young people the mentorship and tools to be successful. Bravo PelotonU!!!

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