Why Boxed CEO Chieh Huang has offered to pay full college fees for all of his employees’ kids

Now everyone can prosper.
Now everyone can prosper.
Image: Reuters/Brian Snyder
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An awful lot of résumés may soon be flooding the inbox of Chieh Huang. The CEO of Boxed, a mobile commerce startup, has announced that he will pay full college fees for all of his employees’ kids—regardless of where they choose to study.

The company board could not say “no” to Huang’s wishes, because the money will be coming from his own stake in the company as well as investors he’s asked to contribute. “I tell them I love that you’re investing in me and us, but you have to value the employees as much as me,” Huang told the Washington Post. Huang himself hasn’t drawn a salary for the last two years.

Education the equalizer

In April, workers across 200 cities protested in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. Although Boxed already pays its warehouse employees between $13 and $15 per hour, Huang believed that more could be done.

His solution to pay for kids’ college fees comes from his own experience. As the child of immigrant parents who came to the US with little money, Huang saw first hand how financial inequality leads to a lack of opportunities. College education is shown to be one of the best ways to increase the chances of personal economic mobility.

“I thought, ‘What was it that created the upward mobility in my family, especially when my parents first came to this country?’ That enabler was access to higher education,” Huang told CBS News. “The thing is, if you can’t afford a car, how are you ever going to afford post-secondary school? That got me thinking that we are building a long-term business here, and we need to reinvest back into the folks who are committed to us.”

Generosity in the C-Suite

The progressive executive is not the only CEO with a generous streak, however.

Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments, recently set a minimum wage of $70,000 at his company, after reading a research paper that said that people making less than $70,000 can truly become happier if they made more money. For many of his employees, the increase meant seeing their paycheck double. He is partly funding the raises by decreasing his own salary from $1 million to $70,000.

Earlier this month Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, also decided to review the salaries of all his employees and promised that men and women will receive equal pay for the same roles. Currently, less than 30% of employees in the company are women, but Benioff says he wants to ultimately employ an equal number of men and women.

For Huang, who has 100 employees at Boxed, the decision was a moral one. “These folks have dedicated themselves to our company day in and day out. I’m really nothing without them, so this was just my way of making the situation right,” he told CNN Money.