Amazon added new colleges and universities, as well as English-as-a-second-language classes, to its "free college" tuition benefit program for warehouse and fulfillment workers, which covers the tuition costs for specific high school and college programs and other upskilling classes.
Amazon revamped its tuition benefit program in September 2021 as the company battled to recruit hundreds of thousands of workers in lower-skill jobs like delivery, warehousing and fulfillment and the "Great Resignation" made the labor market significantly more favorable for those workers. Amazon's expanded benefits offering also followed on the heels of similar changes from Target and Walmart, which have been competing for the same group of workers.
The new benefit made workers eligible for "Career Choice" tuition programs almost immediately after they started working at the company, rather than making them wait a year, and dramatically increased the number and type of programs they could enroll in.
But most higher-education researchers also said at the time that Amazon's program and other supposedly "free college" benefits offered by competitors are actually limited in their uptake by workers, their ability to help people actually achieve higher degrees and their tuition value.
Federal tax laws also make it difficult for companies like Amazon to provide benefits that reimburse beyond $5,250 in education expenses every year, making it difficult for workers to actually achieve some of the more valuable and expensive college degrees.