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Amazon expands education perk for workers to cover full college tuition

The online retail giant says it will invest $1.2 billion in education and skills training by 2025.

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James Martin/CNET

Amazon on Thursday said it is expanding the education benefits it offers to US employees. The online retail giant said it will invest $1.2 billion in education and skills training by 2025, including full tuition at "hundreds of education partners" in the US.

"Amazon is now the largest job creator in the US, 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," said Dave Clark, CEO of worldwide consumer at Amazon, in the release. Clark added that, so far, over 50,000 Amazon employees globally have already participated in the company's Career Choice education program. 

Starting in January, more than 75,000 operations employees will be eligible to have their full college tuition paid for -- including associate and bachelor's degrees -- through Amazon's Career Choice program. Amazon said it will also fund high school completion, GEDs and English as a Second Language certificates. The company said it will pay for tuition and fees in advance, rather than making employees apply for reimbursement. Employees are eligible for the program 90 days after starting, Amazon said, and there's no limit on the number of years they can use the benefit. 

The increased education perk comes as companies compete for workers amid a labor shortage in the US. Walmart and Target also expanded their education benefits this year as companies look to attract workers with more than just a paycheck. 

While the education benefits may appeal to some, Amazon has also faced criticism for its treatment of warehouse and delivery workers, including not paying workers for time spent in line or being screened. Amazon employees have also protested over conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with some saying sufficient safety measures weren't in place.