America’s largest retailer has announced that it will cover 100% college plus book costs for its employees. The move comes as an extra incentive to hire and retain prospective talent in a problem-laden job market.

The United States is currently grappling with a labor shortage, as stores could not find enough workers to fill vacancies. So, aside from pay hikes and benefits, the retailer is now luring talent with the promise of covering their tuition.

Walmart’s education program involves collaboration with over 10 universities. Eligible workers need to be employed by Walmart in either a part-time or full-time capacity. They will have access to the Live Better U Program where associates made $1 daily payments to participate. The retailer employs 1.5 million individuals.

The following are Walmart’s 10 academic partners:

  • Johnson & Wales University
  • Purdue University Global
  • Voxy EnGen
  • The University of Arizona
  • Brandman University
  • Pathstream
  • Southern New Hampshire University
  • Wilmington University
  • Penn Foster
  • The University of Denver

Removing financial obstacles to enrollment

Following the economic downturn, Walmart believed that providing full tuition coverage could motivate their associates to complete their education. The Live Better U Program began in 2018 and now has benefited 52,000 individuals and produced 8,000 graduates.

Resolving debt is seen as the surefire way to encourage employees to pursue their degrees. Student loan in the US has reached nearly $.17 trillion.

Walmart has rethought its $1 per day fee for Walmart and Sam’s Club workers. According to Lorraine Stomski, Walmart senior VP of learning and leadership, removing the $1 a day investment eliminates the financial obstacles for enrollment. She also said that they have added an additional 4 academic partners, bringing the new count to 10. They have also offered other degree and certificate programs such as cybersecurity, supply chain, and business administration.

Stomski added that employees are incentivized further to participate since the program comes with a promotion perk. As a result, participants double their chances of getting promoted and retained compared to other workers.

Luring talent by any means

Walmart’s move also reflects the desperation of many retailers in the country to hire employees. As of May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 974,000 jobs remained vacant in the industry. 

Previously, Walmart has increased wages for its employees to $13 an hour minimum. The company’s minimum wage stands at $11 per hour, lower than Target’s and Amazon’s $15.

Walmart’s competitors are also following suit, increasing wages and expanding benefits as they continue to lure workers.