Walmart employees will soon see a $1 billion commitment to their college tuition and books, the company announced recently.
As part of a five-year program, Yahoo! News reports that the nation’s largest private employer will pay 100 percent of its employees’ tuition. The program will be for Walmart and Sam’s Club employees.
The move comes as many businesses compete to attract workers in a tight labor environment. With Walmart’s competitors offering $15 per hour, the store is also working to boost wages.
“Employers need people who have the education and skills to thrive,” America’s Promise Alliance CEO John Gomperts said. “That’s why Walmart’s investment in developing the education and workplace skills of its employees is so significant.”
Other benefits include graduation bonuses, free ACT and SAT preparation, and up to seven hours of free college credit. Also, flexible scheduling options (same-day work and shifts for up to 13 weeks) are in the works.
Walmart started the Live Better U program that focused on a debt-free college experience in 2018. The $1-a-day deal was essential to the plan for more than 1.5 million U.S. employees. Now, those in the program will not pay the $1-a-day bill or pay for textbooks.
“We are creating a path of opportunity for our associates to grow their careers so they can continue to build better lives,” Lorraine Stomski said. Stomski is a senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart.
New employees enter into the program regardless of full-time or part-time status. Already, more than 52,000 associates participated in Live Better U, and 8,000 earned a degree or certificate. As of this summer, nearly 28,000 associates are active in the program, Stomski said.
Colleges Part of College Tuition, Books Commitment Plan
Yahoo! News reported the program started with business, leadership, and management degrees. It has expanded to 14 technology-focused and health-related degrees. Employees can also earn certificates for skilled trades.
Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University and several others will participate in the program.
Recently, Walmart said it would add Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, and Pathstream.
Company officials put together the program after consulting with experts. They also reviewed other employer-provided education programs. Finally, they studied the research around what helps drive completion rates among adult working learners.
The move comes a month after the company announced it would develop its insulin brand for consumers at discount prices.
Statisa.com said there are 4,743 Walmart stores in the U.S. as of January 31, 2021. Sam’s Club has 600 U.S stores, according to the company’s website.
The median weekly pay in 2020 for workers with a bachelor’s degree was $1,305, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For those with an associate’s degree, it was $938. High school graduates garnered just $781.