Walmart’s college tuition program now free for all its workers

Walmart is cutting all costs for employees who enroll in the retailer’s college tuition program, with the country’s largest private employer saying it’ll get rid of the $1 a day fee to encourage more of its roughly 1.5 million workers to participate. 

In another example of a company seeking to find and keep workers in a tight labor market, the retail giant on Tuesday said it would invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years on training and career development for employees.

“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,” Lorraine Stomski, Walmart’s senior vice president of learning and leadership, stated in a news release.

Walmart is adding four new schools and degrees or certificates in business administration, supply chain management and cybersecurity to its program dubbed Live Better U. It’s also removing the buck-a-day charge for the schooling starting Aug. 16 as it strives to “remove the barriers” keeping people from getting degrees, the company said.

Since the program’s launch in 2018, more than 52,000 employees have participated and 8,000 have graduated, according to Walmart. Nearly 28,000 workers have been active in the program this summer.

Walmart in June said it would give 740,000 employees free Samsung smartphones by the end of the year to help manage schedules as well as for personal use, with Walmart providing free cases and protection plans for the phones.

The company earlier in the year hiked pay for 425,000 workers, or nearly a third of its U.S. workforce, including those tasked in digital and stocking positions particularly crucial during the pandemic, with their starting hourly rates rising to between $13 and $19. Walmart kept its starting minimum at $11 an hour and its average pay overall to a little over $15 an hour.