On May 30th, Walmart announced that they would pay for the large majority of their employees' college education.
Walmart announced on May 30 it will start paying the college costs of employees who don’t have college degrees. Full and part-time workers can enroll for an associate or bachelor’s degree in business or supply-chain management at three nonprofit academic institutions: Brandman University (California), Bellevue University (Nebraska), and the University of Florida.
“Many of our associates don’t have the opportunity to complete a degree,” Drew Holler, Walmart’s U.S. Vice President of People Innovation, told Bloomberg. He continued, “We felt strongly that this is something that would improve their lives and help us run a better business.”
Walmart announced the news at its annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Ark. The initiative is through a partnership with Guild Education, an online education and tuition reimbursement platform that assists large employers with offering education benefits to their employees. According to CNN Money, Guild will offer academic counseling to help workers with the application process and determine suitable degrees.
Eligible workers can take advantage of this opportunity, effective immediately, reported CNBC. Walmart has estimated that up to 68,000 of its 1.5 million employees could register for the program. While attending the aforementioned schools, employees can take online classes with flexibility for evening or weekend studying.
Employees will contribute to their education at $1 per day, 365 days every year, while they are enrolled; Walmart will pick up the remaining costs including books, fees and tuition. The company didn’t disclose estimated program costs, but Guild said similar programs cost employers $6,000 to $10,000 per worker every year.
Who Else Offers Tuition Assistance?
Walmart is the just the latest company to offer these perks. For example, as the food service industry has a notoriously low employee retention rate – with nearly three-quarters of workers in hospitality or food service leaving their jobs, CNBC reported – restaurant companies have been trying to combat this with educational opportunities.
Starbucks Corp. was the first to do so back in 2014, when it announced plans for a four-year, full tuition payment for full and part-time U.S. workers through Arizona State University's (ASU) online program. This represented a change from its established partial tuition repayment plan.
Recently the company said by 2025, it hopes 25,000 of its employees will graduate from the ASU program.
Chipotle also has a comprehensive tuition assistance program. Annually, employees can qualify for up to $5,250 in tuition assistance for graduate and undergraduate degrees, up to $5,185 in federal grants, and on-the-job training for apprentice managers, crew, kitchen managers, or service manager positions. Employees can earn up to 44 credit hours according to Chipotle’s website.
At the end of the day, Chipotle says employees will pay $250 annually to attend college. So far, more than 7,000 Chipotle employees have utilized the education benefits since its 2016 inception, reported CNBC.
In addition to Chipotle and Walmart, Yum Brands (including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) and McDonald’s also offer tuition help.
These tuition assistance programs can be a great help to prospective students who are looking for ways to pay for college. In some cases, students may end up running out of federal financial aid or can’t find any scholarships. Being able to rely on a tuition assistance program may help them avoid taking on expensive private student loans (or federal student loans in the first place for that matter). Overall, it’s a great employee benefit to take advantage of, especially for a college student trying to work his or her way through college.