In advance of its annual shareholders meeting later Wednesday, mega-retailer Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) announced a new employee benefit: financial assistance for employees seeking an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in business or supply chain management.
Walmart will subsidize the cost of tuition, books and fees for U.S. associates (hourly employees) who will contribute $1 a day ($365 a year) toward the cost of their education. The company said the program eliminates the need for students to take out a student loan and “address[es] one of the biggest hurdles that keep people from returning to college.
The company has teamed up with three nonprofit institutions — the University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University — that were selected for their focus on and solid outcomes for working adult learners. Walmart employees may take classes online, in the evening or on weekends.
Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., said:
Investing in the personal and professional success of our associates is vital to Walmart’s future success. We know training and learning opportunities empower associates to deliver for customers while growing and advancing in their careers.
Walmart also has partnered with Guild Education, an education benefits platform, to provide students with services to help with applications and enrollment.
Walmart employees who have received or will receive company-sponsored training at Walmart Academies will be able to apply those courses to their degree programs.
Other retailer operators like Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill already make similar offers. Like Walmart, these companies want a more educated workforce, and they want those educated workers to stick around.
Also like other retailers, Walmart is raising its starting pay (up to $11 an hour this year) and expanding other benefits like maternity and parental leave. The company estimates that about 68,000 of its 1.5 million U.S. associates may initially sign up for the program.