Arizona State University and Starbucks both certainly benefited from a week of widespread media attention, likely more than would have come from several hundred thousand dollars worth of traditional advertising and marketing efforts. Starbucks agrees to focus their college funding program for employees on an education at ASU, ASU discounts the tuition, and students get a deal of an education. Critics argue that this restricts student options to one school, while advocates focus upon this creative partnership between higher education and the corporate world.
This is not a new strategy. Colleges from MIT to local community colleges have brokered these sorts of arrangements for years. Many colleges have teams of people whose entire job is to cultivate these sorts of partnerships with companies. The colleges get new students and the organizations are able to recruit and train new (and existing) talent through such programs.
In this age of increased marketing spends from competitive online higher education institutions, this makes even more sense. It can cost thousands of dollars in advertising, digital marketing campaigns, and admissions counseling for a college to recruit a student to an online MBA. That is thousands of dollars that do not go toward making the education more affordable to students. In such a market, these college/corporate partnerships offer a tangible benefit to the students. Since the partnership reduces the need to invest so much in advertising and marketing to get the attention of a prospective ASU student who works at Starbucks, that means that ASU can reallocate the marketing spend for that student toward a tuition discount, one that Starbucks gets to point to as a perk for working at the company. I realize that there are challenges and limitations to such an agreements, but this part of the deal seems to be a win-win-win.