What can rival retailers learn from Walmart’s free college degree program?
Walmart is really taking its “Save Money. Live Better” mantra seriously. The retailer announced this week that it plans to pay 100 percent of the tuition and textbook expenses incurred by company employees who participate in its Live Better U (LBU) education program.
Walmart, which is the largest private employer in the U.S., has committed to spend nearly $1 billion in support of its workers as they seek career-related training and development. The program is open to the roughly 1.5 million full- and part-time workers at Walmart and Sam’s Club.
“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,” Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart, said in a statement. “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.”
Walmart’s announcement represents a modification of the LBU program, launched in 2018, that allows associates to pay the equivalent of $1 a day to further their education. Textbooks were not included. The retailer added a new perk a year later to attract high school students to its workforce that included free preparation classes for ACT and SAT tests, up to seven hours college credit as part of LBU’s College Start program and debt-free degrees in business, supply management and technology from participating institutions.
The company is also adding approved college degree and certificate programs in business administration, cybersecurity and supply chain, for which it will foot the bill.
“These additional offerings join a robust catalog of programs to set associates up for new career opportunities,” Ms. Stomski said. “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 is also adding four academic institutions to its roster of LBU providers — Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and Pathstream. Walmart is currently also working with Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University and Voxy EnGen.
- Walmart To Pay 100% of College Tuition and Books for Associates – Walmart
- Walmart looks to win talent war with new education benefit – RetailWire
- Walmart to expand its talent pipeline with a debt-free college plan for high schoolers – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers make continuing education benefits a greater focus of their human resources packages in light of the cost of earning degrees and the desire for career development? How do companies without the resources of Walmart compete in this space?