These numbers won’t surprise you, but you need to see them lined up:
I won’t even get into private tuition because, well, it’s scary.
Meanwhile, average compensation in the U.S. grew by only 25% in the same time period.
You see where I’m going. Education that allows for higher-paying jobs is increasingly financially impossible for families. And so, stuck in lower-paying, hourly jobs, many Americans are left wondering how they move from $15/hour with no benefits to a respectable salary with health insurance and a 401k.
The answer is: U.S. business.
Suffering from a dearth of labor, Amazon recently announced a pivot in their education subsidy program. Instead of offering tuition reimbursement for associate degrees, they’re bankrolling bachelor degrees upfront — for hourly workers.
It’s about time.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, $15/hour is not enough to live on anymore — and Amazon is realizing it. Instead of raising the wage, however, they’re playing the long game: Educate their own staff so they build loyalty and, ideally, employees invest their training and education back into the company.
Additional changes to the subsidy program nod to the reality of paying for modern education. Once focused on cumbersome reimbursement — leaving the onus of upfront cost to workers who really can’t afford it, even for a short time — the company is now stepping up and paying for books and tuition when the bill is due.
So, you may ask: Why is education so important, anyway? And why should businesses pay for it?
Many a treatise has been written on the importance of education in American society (like this one from Ted Dintersmith over at Forbes) — it paves the way for a thoughtful, discerning electorate, an engaged society, and invested public. It also elevates our work, pushing the bounds of innovation and growth that strengthen the entire fabric of the country. To lean on another tried and true aphorism, a rising tide lifts all boats.
The problem over the last 30 or 40 years — perhaps longer — has been the inaccessibility of that education. The path forward is cash-flush business subsidies. Why? To improve society, sure, but also — to be blunt — to secure long-term growth for the private sector. Win-win.
Also, let’s be real about the cost to behemoths like Amazon. This investment is a drop in the bucket.
As the Journal reported, Amazon expects to spend $1.2 billion on this new educational program by 2025. To put that in perspective, the corporate megalith pulled in almost $68 billion in a single quarter in 2020.
Other tier-one corporations have entered the fray: Walmart, Chipotle, Starbucks, Target. It’s creating a wave of change that, we can only hope, sets a standard for American business.
Want to attract (and keep) talent? Don’t just pay for their work — subsidize their future.