Amazon to Pay Full College Tuition for 750,000 U.S. Employees

Posted on September 9, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon with 26 Comments

Amazon announced today that it would fully fund the college education for over 750,000 of its frontline workers in the United States, including the cost of classes, books, and fees.

“Amazon is now the largest job creator in the U.S., and we know that investing in free skills training for our teams can have a huge impact for hundreds of thousands of families across the country,” Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Dave Clark said. “We launched Career Choice almost 10 years ago to help remove the biggest barriers to continuing education—time and money—and we are now expanding it even further to pay full tuition and add several new fields of study.”

Amazon says the total of this investment will reach $1.2 billion by 2025, and it will also build over 110 on-site classrooms for employees in its fulfillment centers across 37 states. To date, over 50,000 Amazon employees around the world have already participated in the Career Choice program, which also funds high school diplomas, GEDs, and English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency certifications.

The fully-funded college tuition program kicks off in January 2022 and, going forward, Amazon will pay employees’ tuition and fees directly instead of reimbursing them after they’ve completed coursework, easing the financial burden. All hourly employees with just three months of employment are eligible, and employees will have access to funds for education annually as long as they remain at the company. There is no limit to the number of years they can benefit, the company adds.

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Comments (26)

26 responses to “Amazon to Pay Full College Tuition for 750,000 U.S. Employees”

  1. navarac

    Probably afford it, seeing as they paid minimal tax in the UK, like a lot of corporations.(£492m tax on £20.6bn).

    • jchampeau

      Don't confuse revenue with profit. Profits are taxed; revenues aren't. Amazon's revenues are inarguably astronomical--$386 billion worldwide in 2020. But they have to spend almost all of that to operate their business and are left with very little profit percentage-wise. Amazon's net margin in 2020 was 5.53%, so around $21 billion in profit worldwide for the year. That's about what Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft each earned in profit last quarter. Amazon has 750,000 employees whereas Apple has 37,000, Alphabet has 135,000, and Microsoft has 182,000. Add those up and the number isn't even half of Amazon's headcount. Alphabet, Microsoft, and Apple comparatively have much smaller workforces and much more profitable business models. So yes, Amazon's offering to pay education expenses for their gigantic workforce is commendable.

      • behindmyscreen

        So, this is a tax dodge...give employees free tuition as a way to reduce profits.

      • cavalier_eternal

        Commendable? The vast majority of the those employees work in fulfillment and delivery which makes it virtually impossible to attend school in person given that they have to work 40 hour week plus overtime. Amazon know full well that most employees will never be able to take advantage of the program and it will ultimately cost them nothing. A benefit that people can’t use isn’t a benefit it’s theater. You also undercounted Apple’s employee count is accurate for like 2009, you have undercounted it by over 160k.

        • jpwalters

          It's a good gesture, and more companies should follow! But I agree it's more about the optics. Feels like Scott's Tots if you ever watched "The Office." It's a tad disingenuous. With the way they push their employees to meet Herculean productivity goals, going to college at the same time is a difficult feat. You'd be burned out with nothing left in the tank for classes, studying, and sleep (what sleep!?). You would have to be an extraordinary individual to pull it off, maybe 1% can. Some napkin math shows that's about all they expect (1-3%). 750,000 employees, so 1% be about 7,500 per year. If we said tuition was $50,000 a year, that be $375M per year. They say they'll start in 2022, and claim by 2025 their cumulative investment ($375M x 3 years) be about $1.2B. Maybe I should think about it this way. Amazon by then would have put at least 22,500 students through college, that's still a laudable effort.

          • cavalier_eternal

            It’s weird, in over two decades of work I have never had an employer that doesn’t offer this benefit. Further, most of them allowed time off during the day to attend class. So, I have gotten tuition paid and time off to take advantage of it. So the notion that other companies should follow is a terrible idea as it would represent a huge step backward.


            I appreciate trying to put math behind the whole thing but I think the cost for Amazon is much lower than you are projecting. It looks like you are assuming folks will be going to school full time but the reality would probably be closer one or two classes a semester. I’d think the people benefit from this are people that were close to finishing a degree and only had a few classes left. Doing a full four year degree this way would be a long haul.


            Ultimately I feel like Amazon is trying to do some damage control here. They have taken a beating in the press over their work environment and this seems more like them trying to buy some good will with the public.


            On a personal note, I had an Amazon recruiter reach out to me about a job. I wasn’t particularly interested because I didn’t want to relocate to Seattle but I also know there is no downside to talking to a recruiter and there is always potential for an upside. I asked if I could speak to some of the people that would be my coworkers if I got the job to see if it was really a fit and they declined to allow that. So I looked on LinkedIn and found a few people. They were all looking for a way out of the company and recommended against leaving a job to come work for Amazon. It’s not scientific at all but it certainly left an impression.

      • bettyblue

        Not sure where you are getting your numbers. Apple has 147,000 employees. Those a direct employees. FoxCon and others employ many thousands more to produce Apple products. Apple being just one example of this business model.


        Amazon has 810,000 employees says Wiki. They also have a different business model, that requires many, many warehouse employees...something that Apple, Google and Microsoft does not need. Again different business model and not really comparable.


        Amazon has long been the master of using tax laws to show no or very little profit to avoid paying taxes. Its almost a running joke now.

      • navarac

        I'm not confusing anything with anything. Just that the vast majority of corporations (worldwide I hasten to add) avoid tax to the extent that , if you or I did it to the same extent, we'd be in jail quicker than that.

  2. red.radar

    I bet the only major they will approve will be Packaging Science.

  3. lvthunder

    I'm glad to hear this. Hopefully, they will learn skills that make them more valuable so they can make more money.

  4. jrh

    UPS did something like this ~20 years ago - I went to two years of community college of school and they paid for everything. Well worth the labor effort.

  5. bluvg

    $1.2B/750k = $1,600. I'm guessing they're estimating only a fraction of 750k employees will take them up on the offer? I also wonder if there are any requirements around the classes or term of employment after receiving the benefit.


    If this is good as it sounds on the surface, though, big kudos to Amazon.

    • toukale

      Well it depends on the fine print. Walmart said the same until you read the fine print where the catch is they have to maintain a 3.5 gpa. I don't know for the rest of you but I averaged a 3.1 gpa in college without having a full time job. Granted, I was not a model student until my final year but still.

  6. vladimir

    So, while many families struggle or save for a lifetime to pay for education of their kids, Amazon is able to fund education for 750,000 people investing a small portion of their income in a quarter. Is it just me to think that something is very wrong?

    • cavalier_eternal

      First off, they aren’t funding education for 750k. Most of those people will never use this program. Second, a full time employee isn’t really able to go to school full time, especially someone that has little to no schedule flexibility. So the per semester cost is much lower and the tuition is stretched out over a longer period of time (a four year degree would take a much longer time to attain). So the comparison isn’t really apt. That said, you are correct. Something is profoundly wrong with how we pay for higher education in the U.S.

    • lvthunder

      Something is very wrong. The price of education is artificially inflated. They have gone up multiple times of inflation in the past decade or so.

      • bettyblue

        That is because the Federal Government backs student loans. The colleges know they will get paid so they raise the prices. The Federal Goverment also forgives loans all the time, (basically says you do not have to pay it back) it has rapidly increased since 2005. All this means is tax payers are basically burning money and we all have to pay it off. It is a complete racket.

    • jchampeau

      Agreed. It's shame more companies don't follow Amazon's example and do this for their employees.

      • cavalier_eternal

        I’m in my late 40s and have been working for well over two decades. I have never had an employer that doesn’t offer tuition reimbursement. I was surprised when I read this news not because Amazon was offering this but because I would have guessed that they already did. WTF Amazon? Their reputation as awful place to work seems well deserved.

  7. justme

    I dont know. While on the surface this seems like a nice benefit, as others have said companies have been offering tuition reimbursment for years so it isnt anything new. In fact, I am more surprised that Amazon is doing this *only now.*


    It will be interesting to see how many people actually use the benefit over time. Anybody who has ever gone to school and worked full-time will tell you - it isnt the easiest thing in the world to do. My question is what are the handcuffs? This is Amazon, so there has to be incentive in it for them to do this (apart from pure PR) - are there limits on what fields you can study, how many classes are you limited to per term, how long must you remain with the company once you get a degree, can you take a certain number of hours off per term to attend class, etc.

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