Walmart Raises the Stakes on Employee Retention, Will Subsidize Workers’ College Degrees for $1 a Day

Walmart is offering a new benefit to its 1.4 million associates: affordable college degrees.

Courtesy of a new partnership with Guild Education, the country’s largest retailer will subsidize associate’s and bachelor’s degrees from three accredited universities — University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida; Brandman University in Irvine, California; and Bellevue University in Bellevue, Nebraska — at a cost to employees of $1 per day.

Workers must enroll in business or supply chain management programs (aspiring liberal arts majors will have to look elsewhere) and may study online or on campus. While they may still be eligible for financial aid such as federal Pell Grants, they won’t have to take out student loans to cover the cost of tuition, textbooks and fees under the new benefit program.

Walmart also says employees won’t be required to continue working for the company following graduation. Discounts will also be available at a network of 80 other universities around the country and will also cover advanced degrees. The retailer expects 68,000 employees to enroll in the program in the first five years, and it will continue to offer credit-eligible job training courses through its development initiative, Walmart Academies.

The announcement is the latest to show how imperative employee retention has become in today’s strong job market. In the wake of President Trump’s tax cuts, Walmart raised its starting wage to $11, expanded parental leave benefits, and distributed a $1,000 bonus to eligible associates, although it closed 63 Sam’s Club locations shortly thereafter. Even before that, Target committed to raising its base wage to $15 by 2020. Many other low-wage employers have also implemented education assistance programs, including Amazon, Taco Bell, Chipotle and Starbucks, though in the latter case, employees are required to pay up front and seek reimbursement through the company afterward.

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