Walmart today unveiled a new associate education benefit designed to remove barriers to college enrollment and graduation. The new program allows Walmart associates to be able to access affordable, high-quality associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Business or Supply Chain Management.
Under the program, which will be made available to all Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club associates, Walmart will subsidize the cost of higher education, beyond financial aid and an associate contribution equivalent to $1 a day. Degrees will be offered through the University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University — nonprofit schools selected for their focus and strong outcomes on serving working adult learners.
“Just a $1 a day. That’s all associates have to contribute to earning a college degree,” wrote Beth Harris, internal communications manager at Walmart, in a blog announcing the program. “After that, Walmart takes care of tuition, books and fees. That also means there’s no need for a student loan — wiping out the thousands of dollars of debt associated with other degree options. What’s even better: Associates can earn college credit for paid training at Walmart Academies, saving them substantial time and money.”
As many as 68,000 employees — or as much as 5% of the company’s workforce — might sign up, Walmart executives estimated. The company did not disclose the potential cost of the program.
Working with Guild Education, a company that helps large employers extend education benefits, associates will receive support on everything from the application and enrollment process to selecting the appropriate degree.
“Walmart has kicked off what might be the nation’s most scalable approach to creating educational opportunity for America’s workforce, now available to its U.S. associates and their families,” said Rachel Carlson, CEO and co-founder of Guild Education. “Walmart is also leading innovation at the intersection of workforce development and higher education by helping associates earn college credit for their on-the-job training.”
Walmart said it is also committed to an independent evaluation of the outcome of its new offering. The Lumina Foundation has agreed to research and measure the impact and effectiveness of the program and will work with the Walmart team to share findings.
Walmart’s new education program is part of its broader approach to preparing the workforce to succeed today and into the future, the company said. Other initiatives include:
• Developing a broad suite of offerings across roles and levels to help associates from frontline to executive levels develop job-related skills for advancement.
• Covering the complete cost for associates and eligible family members for earning a high school diploma or GED.
• Offering associates and eligible family members have access to tuition discounts, financial aid assistance and education coaching across Guild’s broader network of more than 80 accredited, nonprofit university partners, including schools such as The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Columbia University and Purdue University. These institutions are made available through EdX.
• Giving access to professional development courses including college prep, leadership training and ESL.
These programs are available to full-time, part-time and salaried Walmart U.S. store, supply chain, home office and Sam’s Club associates.