Walmart (WMT), the nation’s largest private employer, says it will start paying 100% of the tuition for its debt-free college perk as part of a $1 billion commitment to career training and development over the next five years.
In the summer of 2018, the big-box retailer began offering its 1.5 million U.S. associates debt-free college, as part of its $1-a-day college tuition perk, called Live Better U. Beginning Aug. 16, associates enrolled in Walmart’s Live Better U will no longer have to foot the $1-a-day tuition bill or pay for textbooks.
“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 family. 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 worker learners from obtaining degrees,” Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart, said on a call with reporters.
The program — available on day one for full-time and part-time associates— has seen more than 52,000 associates participate and 8,000 earn a degree or certificate. As of this summer, nearly 28,000 associates are active in the program, Stomski added.
According to Stomski, associates in the program are “two times more likely to get promoted, and they retain at a significantly higher rate.”
Initially, the Live Better U program offered degrees in business, leadership, and management. It then expanded to provide technology-focused and health-related degrees and certificates for skilled trades.
“Our education offerings tie directly to our growth areas at Walmart, and what better way to build a pipeline of future talent than with our own associates,” Stomski said.
Through the program, in partnership with Guild Education, Walmart associates can earn degrees from Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University, and Voxy EnGen. On Tuesday, Walmart said it would add Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, and Pathstream to its suite of college institutions and degrees and certificates in business administration, supply chain, and cybersecurity.
Julia La Roche is a correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.