In an effort to help decrease the growing student debt nationwide, Walmart announced Tuesday that the company will begin offering free college tuition and books to its 1.5 million U.S. employees, effective Aug. 16.
Starting next month, the retail giant said it will drop its existing $1-per-day fee for associates who participate in its Live Better U education program. As a result, approximately 1.5 million part-time and full-time Walmart and Sam's Club associates in the U.S. will be able to earn college degrees or learn trade skills without the burden of accumulating college debt.
"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 in a statement released Tuesday. "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 Live Better U education program was created three years ago in order to help employees grow and advance within the company.
Employees can choose from a variety of institutions, including: Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and Pathstream — complementing its existing "academic partners": Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University and Voxy EnGen.
Since the program started in 2018, more than 52,000 associates have participated in the program to date and 8,000 have already graduated, Walmart said.
"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."