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Seeking to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market, Amazon announced yesterday that they’ll cover 100% of the tuition costs for its frontline employees. And Amazon is not alone—other major retailers, including Walmart, Target, and Starbucks, are increasingly offering free education perks as a way to stand out against competitors. Here’s a look at what they offer.

How Amazon’s new education benefit works

​​Starting in January, frontline Amazon workers will have the full costs of their college education paid for (including fees, books, tuition), as well as costs related to high school completion or English as a Second Language certificates.

Part-time employees who work as little as 20 hours a week are also eligible, though Amazon will only cover 50% of their costs, per the Wall Street Journal. The program kicks in 90 days after an employee’s start date, and there’s no limit on the number of years they can use the benefit. Importantly, Amazon will pay for these tuition and fees in advance, which means that employees won’t have to pay for their education upfront and apply for reimbursement later.

Amazon is also launching three internal educational programs that will train employees in data center technology, information technology, user experience, and research design.

Why are they offering this benefit now?

Amazon—which has been criticized for its work conditions and demanding quotas—is desperate to hire and retain employees, having hiring over 500,000 workers in the last year alone. The company has deep pockets, so it’s willing to invest some money in exchange for a more stable workforce—even if tuition recipients leave for other companies. It’s also a competitive move, as other large retail employers have recently announced 100% education benefits for their employees.

 Other major retailers that offer paid education

  • Last month, Walmart announced an education program that covers 100% of tuition costs for 1.5 million part-time and full-time employees in the U.S., including those who work in its Sam’s Club stores. The program is very similar to what Amazon now offers. More details can be found here.
  • Target recently announced that its 340,000 U.S. workers qualify for a 100% paid college education program, which covers tuition and books for a number of programs at more than 40 schools and universities across the country. The company will also pay up to $10,000 a year for master’s programs within its network of schools. More information can be found here.
  • Disney also offers 100% paid tuition for full-time and part-time employees through their Disney Aspire network schools, which includes courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels. More information can be found here.
  • Papa John’s has a “Dough & Degrees” program in which employees at corporate-owned locations qualify for 100% tuition reimbursement for undergraduate and graduate online degree programs through a partnership with Purdue University Global. To qualify, employees must work a minimum of 20 hours a week and be employed for at least 90 days. More information can be found here.
  • Chipotle offers free college tuition for Agriculture, Culinary, and Hospitality degrees through a network of accredited universities and colleges. To be eligible, employees have to have worked at least four months on the job, with a minimum of 15 hours per week. More information can be found here.
  • Starbucks will pay the full cost of an online degree at Arizona State University for U.S. employees who work at least 20 hours a week. According to the Wall Street Journal, there are 50 areas of study, ranging from art history to urban planning. More information can be found here.

   



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