Walmart (NYSE: WMT) wants its employees to further their education. That could mean finishing high school, getting an associate's or bachelor's degree, or even earning a masters.
The company partnered with Guild Education last year to launch the program, and since then, 4,500 of the chain's employees in all 50 states have enrolled in education programs. Not all of those are degree-granting programs, but more than 3,000 workers earned degrees of some sort.
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Now, the retailer has expanded and rebranded its employee education program. The "new Live Better U supports associate education at every level," according to a blog post from Walmart U.S. Executive Vice President of People Julie Murphy.
What is being offered?
Live Better U includes the $1 a day college program. This offer includes access to certain online degrees at a number of partner schools. Walmart has a program for students with less than 12 college credits as well as ones for students who already have at least 12 credits on their way to a degree. The programs allow employees to receive up to 22 college credits for work done as part of Walmart Academy (the company's in-house education offering).
The selection of degrees revolves around subject matter that benefits someone working at a large retailer. Degrees offered include business management, supply chain, transportation and logistics management, and business administration.
The retailer also offers cost-free high-school education to employees and their eligible family members. Workers can also get discounts on master's degree programs and classes that help them learn a foreign language.
"Whether our associates come to Walmart to work a few shifts a week or to start a new career, we want Walmart to be that place where they can explore their potential," wrote Murphy. "To discover what they're made of, and what they can do. A chance to take part in programs that help them grow in their careers and beyond."
Why is Walmart doing this?
The retailer has multiple purposes for offering these programs. First, it's a matter of keeping ahead of rival retailers that have made college discounts and even free college part of their employee benefits packages. The $1 a day program arguably puts Walmart toward the front of the pack when it comes to this type of benefit (maybe even at the actual front).
The second benefit is retention. An employee getting a free degree is not likely to leave for a slight pay increase or even for a decidedly better job.
Lastly, Live Better U, along with Walmart Academy, is the company bettering its workforce for its own benefit. It's paying for training in areas where it needs workers. This allows the company to have the best of both worlds -- employees who know how it operates and workers who have the education to help improve those processes.
This isn't an altruistic effort by the company, but that doesn't make it any less of a benefit for employees. Given the vast amount of Americans who regret their college loan debt, programs like this offer another way. Walmart offers a career path or the option to put in your time, get a degree, and move on. Both of those scenarios benefit the worker as well as the company.
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