Walmart will cover the entire cost of college tuition and books for some of its US employees, the latest push by the country’s largest private employer to sweeten its benefits package in order to recruit and keep talent in a tight labor market.
Ten academic partners participate in the initiative, ranging from the University of Arizona to Southern New Hampshire University. Participants must continue to work at Walmart on a part-time or full-time basis to be eligible.
Walmart announced Tuesday that it would eliminate the $1-per-day fee previously paid by Walmart and Sam’s Club employees interested in earning a degree and begin covering their books’ cost. Around 28,000 employees are enrolled in the program, which started in 2018. Walmart employs approximately 1.5 million people.
“We feel that eliminating the dollar-a-day investment removes the financial barriers to enrollment, and it will increase access,” Lorraine Stomski, Senior Vice President of Learning and Leadership at Walmart (WMT), said during a Tuesday conference call with reporters.
Walmart also announced four additional academic partners, increasing the total to ten, and expanding the number of certificate programs and degrees available in fields such as business administration, supply chain management, and cybersecurity.
Walmart has a financial interest to grow the program. Employees who have taken part in the program are twice as likely to be promoted and retain their jobs at a “significantly higher rate” than other employees, Stomski added.
The move comes as businesses around the country struggle to fill positions in stores and warehouses. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics statistics, there were 974,000 unfilled retail jobs in May.
Walmart increased compensation for 425,000 US employees to at least $13 an hour earlier this year. Walmart’s minimum pay is $11 an hour, far less than competitors such as Amazon (AMZN) and Target (TGT), which both start at $15. Other stores also increase wages, offer hiring and referral bonuses, and expand benefits to attract and retain employees.
These are the schools participating in Walmart’s program:
Johnson & Wales University
The University of Arizona
The University of Denver
Purdue University Global
Southern New Hampshire University