Walmart announced Tuesday that it will pay 100% of its U.S. workers’ college tuition and books over the next five years -- an investment valued at close to $1 billion.
The action is an adjustment to Walmart’s Live Better U (LBU) education program. The retailer said it’s dropping the $1-per-day fee previously required for employees to participate in the program to help alleviate the burden of student loan debt. The fee will be eliminated starting August 16.
The company said the move will help about 1.5 million part-time and full-time Walmart and Sam’s Club associates in the U.S. earn college degrees or learn trade skills without accruing education debt in the process.
“We are creating a path of opportunity for our associates to grow their careers at Walmart, so they can continue to build better lives for themselves and their families,” said Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart. “This investment is another way we can support our associates to pursue their passion and purpose while removing the barriers that too often keep adult working learners from obtaining degrees.”
Adding academic partners and programs
Walmart, which launched its LBU program in 2018, said it is adding four academic partners: Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, and Pathstream. Existing partners include Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University, and Voxy EnGen.
“We’re adding in-demand college degree and certificate options in business administration, supply chain and cybersecurity,” Stomski said. “These additional offerings join a robust catalog of programs to set associates up for new career opportunities. Our education offerings tie directly to our growth areas at Walmart, and what better way to fill the pipeline of future talent than with our own associates.”
Over the past three years, Walmart said more than 52,000 associates have participated in the LBU program and 8,000 have graduated. Nearly 28,000 associates have been active in an LBU program this summer.
The retailer said it was moved to drop the $1-per-day fee to participate in the program because of changes in the economy and job market.
“Walmart is committed to eliminating the burden of education debt,” Stomski said. “Cost is a leading barrier for earning a degree with student loan debt in the U.S. topping $1.7 trillion.”