The largest private employer in the U.S. — Walmart — said Wednesday it will pay 100% of tuition and books for its U.S.-based employees to attend its Live Better U Education Program.
Walmart, a worldwide retailer that typically offers low prices because of the volume of goods it trades, operates 5,342 retail outlets in the U.S., employing 1.6 million people. Internationally, it has 2,653 stores in Mexico, 435 in China, 408 in Canada, 377 in Chile, 29 in India, and 5 in Nigeria, as well as outlets in at least 15 other countries, according to its website. Overseas it employs approximately 700,000 people.
Walmart was previously taking a $1 a day education deduction from associates, as workers are called, in the Live Better U program, it said in a statement released July 27 from its Arkansas headquarters.
Walmart's program partners with these educational institutions: Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, Pathstream, Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University and Voxy EnGen.
"Each of these institutions were chosen for their history of success with adult and working learner programs as well as their focus on degree completion," the company stated.
More than 52,000 employees have participated and 8,000 have graduated since 2018, the company said.
The company said it consulted with education experts and reviewed other employer education-support programs to devise its LBU program, which aims to help drive completion rates among adult working learners.
Adult learners typically juggle more than undergraduate residential campus-based students, such as working, studying, carrying for family members young and old, and other adult responsibilities. Allowing for six years of study, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported in February 2021 that the completion rate for full-time students was 65.4% and 31.7% for part-time students. It's most recent data reported those figures from 2014.
Walmart said it was adding college degrees and certificate options in business administration, supply chain and cybersecurity — curriculum that is in much demand and marketable.
"These additional offerings join a robust catalog of programs to set associates up for new career opportunities," said Lorraine Stomski, Walmart senior vice president. "Our education offerings tie directly to our growth areas at Walmart, and what better way to fill the pipeline of future talent than with our own associates."
Walmart announced plans in 2020 to compete with giant online retailer Amazon. It also competes with other big box, or big store, retailers like Target, Costco and Kroger companies.
Kathleen Struck contributed to this report.