Amazon will offer free college to its employees and join efforts by corporations and Congress to reduce reliance on student loans

Amazon

AMZN
This week became the youngest major national society to offer toll-free college as an employee benefit. The company plans to cover 100% of the tuition, fees and costs for books for its 750,000 hourly employees. The benefits are provided through Amazon’s Career Choice program.

“We know that investing in free training for our teams can have a huge impact on hundreds of thousands of families across the country,” said Dave Clark, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon. “We launched Career Choice almost 10 years ago to remove the biggest barriers to learning – time and money – and are now expanding it to pay full tuition and add several new fields of study.”

Benefits include both associate and bachelor’s degrees from “hundreds of educational partners across the country” (although the company’s press release did not specify which schools were eligible). The initiative will also fund high school diplomas, GEDs, and English as a Second Language (ESL) certifications for their frontline staff.

Amazon’s initiative follows similar actions by other large national corporations in recent months. Earlier this year, Target

TGT
announced that it would cover 100% of tuition and books for employees to earn undergraduate degrees at 40 participating institutions and $ 10,000 per year for graduate programs. Walmart

WMT
had also announced that it would take over 100% of the tuition fees and books for its employees.

And it’s not just big companies that are expanding the initiatives for independent universities. This week, the Democrats in the House of Representatives unveiled a detailed spending proposal as part of the party’s efforts to dramatically expand social safety nets programs. Among the many initiatives, the Democrats propose a universal, free two-year community college, a major political goal of President Biden. The proposal would cover 100% of community college tuition fees, but no other college expenses such as housing and books.

Employer-funded and government-subsidized tuition fees at community colleges and traditional four-year colleges and universities could go a long way in reducing reliance on student loans to fund graduate degrees and education. But while these initiatives could help students meet the cost of future degrees, they do little to address the larger problem of $ 1.8 trillion in existing student loan outstanding debt of over 40 million borrowers. Lawmakers and the Biden administration continue to examine options for dealing with outstanding student loan debt, including bankruptcy reform, revising existing student loan forgiveness and repayment programs, and passing widespread student loan cancellation.

further reading

Democrats Reveal Plan for Free Community College, Expanded Student Loan Compensation, and Increased Financial Aid

Biden’s student loan forgiveness now tops $ 9.5 billion – but eligibility is limited

Biden’s Student Loan Changes: Public Service Loan Granting Coming Next?

Student loan termination debate continues amid servicer disruption

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