BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is enhancing its Live Better U (LBU) education benefit, paying 100% of the cost of college tuition and books for associates enrolled in the program.
Starting on August 16, the retailer will eliminate the $1 a day fee it had charged for participating associates, the company said Tuesday. This means approximately 1.5 million part-time and full-time Walmart and Sam’s Club associates in the U.S. can earn college degrees or learn trade skills without the burden of education debt, according to Walmart, which said it is committing to invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years in career-driven training and development.
“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.”
The LBU program was launched in June 2018. The company said it consulted with experts, reviewed other employer-provided education programs and studied the research around what helps drive completion rates among adult working learners. That work helped guide the initial $1 a day approach, but Walmart said the economy and job market have changed, and it is always looking for new ways to encourage more associates to pursue further education.
“We’re also excited to add 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.”
Walmart also announced that it will add four academic partners — Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and Pathstream — to complement the existing partners: Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University and Voxy EnGen. Walmart said each of these institutions was chosen for its history of success with adult and working learner programs as well as its focus on degree completion.
Walmart is committed to eliminating the burden of education debt, according to the company, which notes that cost is a leading barrier for students seeking to earn a degree. Student loan debt in the U.S. is estimated at more than $1.7 trillion. Since Walmart launched LBU in 2018, the company said that more than 52,000 associates have participated in the program and 8,000 have already graduated. Nearly 28,000 associates have been active in an LBU program this summer.
“As the company making one of the nation’s largest investments in education for America’s workforce, Walmart is setting a new standard for what it looks like to prepare workers for the jobs of the future,” said Rachel Carlson, CEO & co-founder of Guild Education. “Walmart is creating growth opportunities for their workforce and preparing them for the future of work.”