Walmart, the largest U.S. private employer, said Tuesday it will invest $1 billion over the next five years to cover the cost of college tuition and books for its U.S. employees.
Starting on Aug. 16, the Arkansas-based retailer will drop its $1 a day fee for Walmart and Sam's Club associates who are part of the company's Live Better U (LBU) education program.
Previously, the educational program required associates to pay the daily fee but due to the changing economy and job market, the company needed another way to encourage "more associates to pursue further education," according to Walmart.
The company's program, which kicked off in 2018, is part of its commitment to eliminate the burden of education debt, which is "a leading barrier for earning a degree," Walmart said.
Overall, the program will help 1.5 million associates earn a college degree or trade skill without facing that burden, Walmart said.
"This investment is another way we can support our associates to pursue their passion and purpose while removing the barriers that too often keep adult working learners from obtaining degrees," Lorraine Stomski, Walmart senior vice president of learning and leadership, said in a statement.
To date, more than 52,000 associates have participated in the program since it launched. About 8,000 have already graduated.