Walmart wants to keep schooling its workers.
Walmart employees will now be able to get degrees in fields ranging from computer science to cyber security for the tuition tab of one dollar a day. And those who are in high school will be able to earn free college credits and other educational perks for the first time.
Those changes mark the expansion of the retailer’s “Live Better U” initiative, launched last year, that enables employees to pursue degrees and also get college credits for on the job training.
So far, more than 7,500 Walmart employees have taken part in the offering that initially enabled them to study at Brandman University, the University of Florida, and Bellevue University. Three more schools, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University and Wilmington University, are now also participating.
The chance to get a degree for the cost of a dollar a day comes at a time when college tuition is soaring, and student loan debt has topped $1.5 trillion. Walmart says that in addition to helping employees attain higher education, the program will also potentially help the company to create and hold on to a better trained workforce.
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“They wanted access to higher education to improve their lives,’’ says Drew Holler, senior vice president of associate experience at Walmart, who referred to the impetus for the program in a call with media. “What we know also is it’s going to help us with retention … and it’s providing skills we need in the future.”
In addition to adding 14 tech-oriented degrees or certificates to the program, Walmart is extending the college initiative to the high school students in its workforce.
To pursue their studies, the high schoolers can have set shifts on specific days for up to 13 weeks. They can also get free prep for the ACT and SAT college entrance exams, and earn up to seven hours of free college credits.
“High school students face challenges when it comes to work and education,” says Julie Murphy, executive vice president, people, for Walmart U.S. “The cost of college remains a significant barrier.”
Less than 25,000 of Walmart’s employees are high schoolers, but roughly 300 of the company’s store managers began working for the retailer when they were in high school, Murphy says.
And any employee who had not previously earned college credits could win a $1,500 scholar award after graduating. Up to 5,000 staffers will be eligible for the cash annually.
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