Rutgers University – New Brunswick, in another example of its commitment to finding ways to increase access, announced it is joining Amazon’s Career Choice program — an incredible initiative through which the e-commerce giant provides prepaid tuition for its hourly employees.
The partnership is part of an initiative by Amazon to offer its 750,000 hourly workers throughout the U.S. career advancement opportunities.
In New Jersey, Amazon employs 58,000 frontline workers, including 28,000 in Middlesex County.
While Amazon will pay for tuition and fees, Amazon workers must apply to Rutgers (and be accepted) in the same way other prospective students might. Once admitted to Rutgers, employees use Amazon’s Career Choice portal to generate a voucher to pay for classes.
And, while there are limitations, the idea of the program is to increase access — especially to those from communities that traditionally have struggled to find a pathway to college.
There are no restrictions on the types of courses or degrees an Amazon employee can pursue at Rutgers. And Rutgers officials said they will be working closely with Amazon to hold information sessions for employees.
Francis Conway, chancellor-provost of Rutgers-New Brunswick, said the school is eager to participate.
“Rutgers-New Brunswick is always eager to find new ways to leverage the power of higher education for New Jerseyans and help them build the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in an ever-changing world,” she said. “We are proud to partner with Amazon for an initiative that will expand the accessibility and affordability of a transformative education.”
Earlier this year, Amazon announced a Career Choice partnership with Rutgers-Newark. The online retail and technology company also said it is “onboarding” Rutgers-Camden as a partner in the program. The school also has a partnership with Rowan University.
Tammy Thieman, global program lead of Amazon’s Career Choice program, said the retailer is glad it is able to expand the number of universities it is working with in New Jersey.
“We’re looking forward to Rutgers University – New Brunswick coming on board as an education partner for Career Choice, adding to the hundreds of best-in-class offerings available to our employees,” she said.
Amazon is working to increase access to its Career Choice program. Its already is partnering with five county college systems (in Camden, Hudson, Mercer and Middlesex counties and the Rowan system).
And, earlier this year, Amazon announced three major changes to ease the ability to enroll:
- Previously, employees had to work at Amazon for a year before they were eligible. That time period has been reduced to three months (or roughly the time between when a person would graduate high school and enter college);
- Previously, employees had to work full-time for Amazon. Now, part-timers are eligible, potentially employees working 20 hours a week or even less;
- Previously, Amazon paid up to 95% of tuition. Now, it will pay all of it.
Amazon’s Career Choice program has a rigorous selection process for partner educators, choosing institutions focused on helping employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements and offering education that leads to career success.
“We’re committed to empowering our employees by providing them access to the education and training they need to grow their careers, whether that’s with us or elsewhere,” Thieman said.
“We have intentionally created a partner network of third-party educators and employers committed to providing excellent education, job placement resources and continuous improvements to the experience. Today, over 80,000 Amazon employees around the world have already participated in Career Choice, and we’ve seen firsthand how it can transform their lives.”
Colin Newman, director of economic development for Amazon, said the company is eager to move forward with Rutgers.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Rutgers-New Brunswick, one of the best schools in the state, on our Career Choice program to give our tens of thousands of New Jersey employees access to pursue the education path that fits their passions,” he said. “Whether employees are looking to finish their bachelor’s degree at Rutgers-New Brunswick or build on their foundational skills of English proficiency or GED preparation with our national partners, we’re prepared to meet our employees wherever they are on their educational journey.”
The Career Choice program is just one way Rutgers has been increasing access to a college education.
The university launched the Scarlet Guarantee earlier this year, a financial aid award that covers the cost of in-state tuition and mandatory fees and positively impacts thousands of students.
Rutgers-New Brunswick officials said the school also offers a variety of scholarships and programs to its students to offset the cost of tuition and fees for students, including supporting the success of underserved students with programs such as Rutgers Future Scholars, Rutgers Upward Bound, Scarlet Promise Grants, the New Jersey Equal Opportunity Fund, Student Support Services and NJ Stars II, among others.