(Bloomberg) -- Walmart Inc. is investing $1 billion over the next five years to remove all costs related to its employee college tuition program, in an effort to boost enrollment.
The nation’s biggest private employer said as of Aug. 16 the so-called Live Better U program will remove the $1 a day cost for about 1.5 million employees, who are eligible as soon as they start employment in a store, distribution center or in its transportation department. The three-year-old program is also adding four new schools and degree or certificate programs in areas like business administration and cybersecurity.
Walmart said it wanted to “remove the barriers” that often keep people from obtaining degrees. Since 2018, 52,000 associates have participated in the program and 8,000 have graduated, with nearly 28,000 currently enrolled this summer. Still, that leaves 16,000 who have either left the program or are taking a break along the way.
Program graduates are twice as likely to get promoted, said Lorraine Stomski, Walmart’s senior vice president of learning and leadership, and are retained at a “significantly higher rate” that she would not quantify. Stomski declined to say whether prior graduates who paid $1 a day will get a refund.