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Experts weigh in on online degrees vs. in-person ones

PHOENIX — As Starbucks announced a new partnership with Arizona State University on Monday to provide its workers with a pathway to an online college degree, some Valley job experts are weighing in on whether online degrees hold the same value as in-person degrees.

David Bruno, senior client partner at DHR International, one of the country’s largest hiring firms, said he cares more about a candidate’s circumstances rather than if they went to school in person or not.

“When I look at a résumé or interview somebody, I want to hear their story, and if the story has foundation and depth, then it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “If they’re living in their mother’s basement and it’s an easy way out to keep mom off their back, you’ll see that right away.”

He said he thinks the new program could have a big benefit for many Starbucks employees seeking to get a degree, especially those who might need financial help or have busy schedules to work around.

“I look at somebody who’s got one or two jobs they’re working for, like the Starbucks scenario (where) they’re working full-time to make a living and they’re trying to better themselves by going to school; I think that’s very positive,” he said. “Whether they get it online or (at a) not-for-profit or for-profit school — as long as they’re making an effort.”

Theresa Maher, vice president of creative and partner services for, said she also doesn’t think most companies select candidates based off online or in-person degrees, except in the cases of highly specialized positions that may require specific experience.

“For the most part, I think that if it is a position that doesn’t require a very specialized degree or certification, that employers are really looking to see more if somebody went to college and what that experience was,” she said.

She said the school’s reputation will always be a factor in the value of someone’s degree and that ASU’s strong reputation will benefit graduates, regardless of whether they were on campus or online.

Starbucks announced on Monday that the company is going to undertake a major step in providing help with their employee’s educational goals.

The company partnered with ASU to offer 40 different online degree programs to employees that work a minimum of 20 hours a week. Freshman and sophomores can receive scholarships from the company to help pay for school, while juniors and seniors can get their entire tuition paid for by the company without having to reimburse or stay at the company after graduating.