Amazon Offers Free Degrees to U.S. Employees

Peyton Dripps, Staff Writer

Amazon recently announced an initiative to offer U.S. employees working under the company’s aegis a fully-paid college experience. Set to begin in January of next year, the program will give Amazon employees a subsidy to attend an undergraduate institution in the United States. Not only will Amazon’s front-line employees receive this benefit, but warehouse workers will also receive some free college tuition; however, the e-commerce giant will be paying for the workers’ college tuition only if they agree to study in a particular field. 

Although this program sounds facially charitable and very beneficial to Amazon employees, there is a kicker: the company has not yet decided which colleges they will allow their employees to attend, and Amazon has stated that they plan to pay $5,250 yearly in tuition for the eligible workers. College tuition in the United States has been on the rise for the past decades as the majority of state colleges’ tuition range from anywhere between $10,000 to $17,000 each year. The $5,250 that Amazon is offering for their employees is far less than the average yearly cost of most college tuitions in the United States. Many employees and others were left confused as to how Amazon will be giving their employees a “free college education” with only $5,250 being given to each eligible worker. The company shared this past week that they will not be exceeding the $5,250 cap due to their desire to keep students from having to pay taxes for educational assistance. “All 750,000 U.S. hourly employees are eligible to participate in Career Choice 90 days after starting at Amazon. This makes all 400,000 employees who joined the company since the start of the pandemic eligible to access Amazon-funded education opportunities,” Amazon explained earlier this week in their description of the new program.

The company has also shared that they will only be giving this free education to employees who plan to study in one of a few specific fields, at a few specific institutions. Any employee who lacks interest in any of these fields will not receive a scholarship for their college education. Another issue with this arising program is that Amazon stated that the eligible employees must continue to work at the company while receiving a college education. Many workers inquiring about this new opportunity are worried about balancing a full-time job while also focusing on their studies in one of the fields.

Why is Amazon offering to (partially) pay for 750,000 employees’ college tuition? The reason behind the decision is to attract more future employees and retain current staff. Amazon estimates their tuition program will reach a total of about $1.2 billion dollars in four years for the workers in the United States. With this rise in Amazon employees receiving degrees, the company will increase its talent pool and build a smarter and stronger staff. Amazon hopes that with this great benefit, people who are searching for jobs will inquire about working for Amazon rather than other large corporations. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for skilled labor has increased substantially, as is the number of people applying graduate programs and other educational institutions. Amazon is taking advantage of these numbers, following a general trend of company initiatives to fill employee positions and create a resilient, pliable and educated workforce.

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