Walmart (NYSE: WMT) plans to help 1.4 million of its US workers to get a higher education. The company announced that “Walmart’s Lifelong Learning Program will make it more convenient and more affordable for our associates to attend college while also working at the company.”
The program will be done through a partnership with American Public University, an online learning company.The new offering could have a significant impact on the education level of Walmart workers. Associates, as employees are known at the retailer, could receive up to 45 percent of the credits required for an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree at American Public University based on what they have learned in their career at Walmart. As much as 15% of an “associate’s” tuition will be covered.
American Public University describes itself as a “quality higher education with more than 100 affordable, online degrees and certificates.” The school was started as the American Military University in 1991 by a former Marine Corps officer and instructor James P. Etter.
The news may pressure other large retailers to offer similar programs to their employees or risk the charge that they have less interest in their workers’ futures than Walmart. If the education aid for workers extends to companies such as Target (NYSE: TGT) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD), the online education industry would get an unprecedented windfall.
It may take several months to know how many Walmart workers enroll in APU courses, but the project could help improve the image of the world’s largest retailer which has been accused for years as being “employee unfriendly”, especially due to its efforts to keep unions out of its stores. And, there is that class action suit over sexual discrimination that covers more than one million women. Walmart can use all the good PR it can get. It motives may not be entirely pure, but to its workers, that may not matter.
Douglas A. McIntyre