Amazon to fund computer classes in more than 1,000 U.S. high schools

Amazon is investing in the next generation of computer scientists.

The online giant announced it will fund full-year computer science courses in high schools across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, reaching tens of thousands of students from underprivileged, underrepresented, or underserved communities. Of the more than 1,000 participating high schools, more than 700 are classified as Title I schools. The initiative is being funded by Amazon’s Future Engineer Program.

The high schools will offer “Intro to Computer Science” and “AP Computer Science” classes through curriculum provider Edhesive. Amazon’s funding provides for preparatory lessons, tutorials, professional development for teachers, fully sequenced and paced digital curriculum for students, and live online support every day of the week for teachers and students. All students participating in this program will receive a membership to AWS Educate, providing them with free access to computing power in the AWS cloud for their coding projects and content to learn about cloud computing.

“We want to ensure that every child, especially those from underprivileged communities, has an opportunity to study computer science,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO worldwide consumer, Amazon. “We are excited more than 1,000 schools will now provide these courses, and look forward to adding 1,000 more schools over the coming months.”

Launched in November, Amazon Future Engineer is a four-part childhood-to-career program intended to inspire, educate, and prepare children and young adults from underprivileged, underrepresented, and underserved communities to pursue careers in the fast-growing field of computer science. The program aims to inspire more than 10 million kids to explore computer science; provide over 100,000 young people in over 2,000 high schools access to Intro or AP Computer Science courses; award 100 students with four-year $10,000 scholarships, as well as offer guaranteed and paid Amazon internships to gain work experience. In addition, Amazon Future Engineer has donated more than $10 million to organizations that promote computer science/STEM education across the country.

In announcing the new high schools initiative, Amazon cited the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available — but only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. Computer science is the fastest-growing profession within the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field, but only 8% of STEM graduates earn a computer science degree, with a tiny minority from underprivileged backgrounds. Students from underprivileged backgrounds are eight to ten times more likely to pursue college degrees in computer science if they have taken AP computer science in high school, Amazon said.