Photo: Walmart Corporate (CC BY 2.0)
In an effort to help curb soaring student loan debts, Walmart, America’s largest private employer, announced Tuesday it will pay 100 percent of college tuition and book costs for its associates, starting Aug. 16.
Under the new plan, the company announced a nearly $1 billion five-year investment, the Washington Post reports, with employees able to pick from 10 academic partners like the University of Denver and Purdue University Global.
Participating employees must continue to work either part-time or full-time with Walmart in order to be eligible. The 28,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club employees already enrolled in the program since its inception in 2018 have been paying for their books in addition to $1 a day, a fee that will be dropped.
“We feel that eliminating the dollar-a-day investment removes the financial barriers to enrollment, and it will increase access,” Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart, said on a call with reporters Tuesday.
According to CNBC, the new program will now allow nearly 1.5 million full- and part-time Walmart and Sam’s Club employees to be eligible to learn new skills and earn college degrees, the company said.
In May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 974,000 open retail jobs available. By increasing incentives for associates, Walmart will not only attract employees from the labor market, but employees who have already been participating in the program are twice as likely to get promoted and are retained at a “significantly higher rate” than other workers, Stomski said.
Walmart also raised wages earlier this year for 425,000 US workers to at least $13 an hour. However, CNN is reporting the company’s minimum wage is $11 an hour, below that of Target, Amazon, and Costco.