Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, announced Tuesday that beginning Aug. 16, it will pay 100% of the costs of college tuition and books for its full-time and part-time employees.
The company will drop its existing $1-per-day fee for employees in the Live Better U education program. The big-box retailer has introduced the program as a way to improve retention and to curb student loan debts.
There are about 1.5 million part-time and full-time Sam’s Club and Walmart employees.
“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,” she added.
Since Live Better U launched in 2018, more than 52,000 employees have enrolled in the program and 8,000 have graduated. According to Walmart, nearly 28,000 employees have been active in a Live Better U program.
The company is also adding four academic partners to its existing program, including the University of Arizona, Pathstream, the University of Denver, and Johnson & Wales University.
Employees are eligible to take part in the program from their first day of hire at Walmart, according to the company.
Walmart is following in the footsteps of coffee giant Starbucks, which pioneered granting education to its employees no matter what level they were at in the company.
At Starbucks, every benefits-eligible employee who works “part-time or full-time receives 100% tuition coverage for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program,” according to the company’s website.
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