Target to pay for employees’ college tuition and books under new program

Photo (c) gsheldon - Getty Images

The pandemic forced businesses to create new programs that improve employees’ lives, and there’s probably more on the way

Not to be outdone by Walmart, Target is launching its own debt-free education assistance program to more than 340,000 employees.

The company announced that all part-time and full-time team members in the U.S. are eligible for debt-free undergraduate degrees, certificates, certifications, and free textbooks without having to lay out one red cent. Employees don’t have to work for a certain length of time to earn the benefit either. They’re eligible on their very first day of work at Target.

Lots of choices, lots of schools

Target’s new debt-free offering is built around 250 business-aligned programs at more than 40 schools, colleges, and universities including the University of Arizona, Oregon State University, and the University of Denver, along with historically Black colleges such as Morehouse College and Paul Quinn College. 

The program doesn’t just revolve around colleges or fully degreed programs either. Target will support team members taking courses for high school completion, college prep, English language learning, and other select certificates, certifications, boot camps, and associate degrees. For employees who already have an undergraduate degree, the company is going the extra mile by paying up to $10,000 annually for master’s programs.

“Target employs team members at every life stage and helps our team learn, develop and build their skills, whether they’re with us for a year or a career. A significant number of our hourly team members build their careers at Target, and we know many would like to pursue additional education opportunities,”  said Melissa Kremer, chief human resources officer, Target. “We don’t want the cost to be a barrier for anyone, and that’s where Target can step in to make education accessible for everyone.” 

Things like this can change customer perceptions

The pandemic forced many businesses to completely shift how they treat employees and customers alike. Now that available workers have become a scarcity, companies like Target and Walmart have no choice but to raise pay and give employees an incentive to become part of an organization that does more than just waiting for the cash register to ring.

In Target’s case, the new education assistance program is part of Target Forward, an initiative that the company calls a “new sustainability strategy that includes goals to create an equitable and inclusive workforce.” And, if proven viable, that’s a notion that’s probably not lost on its customers -- like Carolyn of Chicago.

“Most of the Targets I visit are very well maintained (clean, organized, well-staffed.) It's very easy to find things throughout the store, I feel like the selection is very broad and varied, and I enjoy shopping at Target. The in-house up & up brand is often very competitively priced and I've never had any issues buying generic. A lot of the clothes are cute, too, and I always find myself discovering a new cleaning or cooking product that becomes indispensable,” Carolyn wrote in a 4-star review of Target at ConsumerAffairs. 

“My only hesitation is that I am aware that Target shows their employees a lot of anti-union content to discourage the retail employees from unionizing and I don't really like that and I have discomfort about spending money with an union-busting retailer.”

With Target’s new education employee plan, customers like Carolyn might be more comfortable shopping with the company.

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