By Jason Duaine Hahn

Published: July 28, 2021



Walmart is stepping up big for employees who hope to further their education.

The retailer announced Tuesday they’ll invest $1 billion over the next five years to cover the full cost of college tuition and book fees for both its Walmart and Sam’s Club employees. The initiative is through their Live Better U (LBU) program, which previously required employees to pay a $1 a day fee to join. That fee, the company says, will be eliminated on Aug. 16 for its 1.5 million part-time and full-time workers.

“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, told reporters on Tuesday, according to CNN.

LBU was launched in June 2018, and more than 52,000 employees have taken part in the program, which currently has 10 academic partners. They include schools such as the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, Purdue University and Wilmington University.

“We are creating a path of opportunity for our associates to grow their careers at Walmart, so they can continue to build better lives for themselves and their families,” Stomski said in a press release.

“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,” she added.

In their announcement, the company said LBU will help employees “take important steps toward creating a long-term career within the Walmart ecosystem,” asserting that those who participate will be expected to stay with the company in some capacity.

But those who successfully earn degrees through the program will have done so without having contributed to the rising student loan crisis. As of recent estimates, the collective student loan debt in the U.S. is part $1.7 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve.
Earlier this year, the retailer raised its average pay for hourly workers to at least $15.25 an hour. The move came after the company had long been criticized for its low-wage positions. According to Reuters, the increase in pay came as competition for workers among the nation’s top retailers has increased.