Everyone loves an employee discount, but mega-retailer Walmart is taking the concept to a whole new level. As part of their employee-benefits package, employees at Walmart and Sam's Club stores now have the opportunity to attend college for only $1 a day.
That includes ALL employees, whether they're part-time, full-time, or salaried. But that's not all. The store chain has also expanded the program to provide test-prep help for high school students, as well as other benefits to help them prepare for college.
Let's dig into the details so you can decide if you'd like to run down to your local store and grab a job application. But first, let's take a quick look at why Walmart might want to offer such a seemingly generous program. (And also answer the question: Is this too good to be true?) (Fast answer: Nope.)
What's in it for Walmart?
There are several positive returns on investment for any company that offers tuition reimbursement. The most obvious one is that it enables the business to take a tax deduction of up to $5,250 per employee for tuition reimbursement. When you're looking at an employee base the size of Walmart's, that is a massive chunk of change.
But beyond that, many companies have found that investing in their current workforce is a great way to retain good employees. Hiring and turnover both cost money. Maintaining productivity is especially important for a customer-facing business like Walmart.
Another powerful incentive: Walmart's current CEO began working in a Walmart store when he was in high school. Offering valuable benefits is a smart, strategic move in attracting talented young people and then winning their loyalty.
Who is eligible for this benefit?
As we said above, Walmart's tuition reimbursement program is open to ALL 1.5 million Walmart associates, including those working at Walmart or Sam's Club stores, as well as all employees working in the home office or within the store's supply chain locations.
The only requirement: Associates must be employed 90 days before becoming eligible for the benefit.
If an employee has to terminate their employment before completing their degree, they do NOT have to repay any college funds. In fact, they may continue their course of study, although they'll have to pay for the entire cost of attendance with help from Walmart.
The program launched in 2018, and since then 7,500 employees have taken advantage of it, according to the store's website.
How does it work?
Let's say you've secured employment with Walmart or Sam's Club.
After 90 days of employment, you may enroll in online college classes through LiveBetterU/Guild Education. You may take classes at one of six participating universities, including:
- University of Florida
- Brandman University
- Bellevue University
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Purdue University Global, or
- Wilmington University .
Unlike most tuition reimbursement programs, Walmart's college program does not require you to pay for college costs up-front and then wait for reimbursement. Rather Walmart subsidizes your education by making payments directly to the college. This is an unusual arrangement, but it's one that definitely benefits you as an employee.
Walmart will cover all tuition costs after financial aid—so that means you'll be expected to apply for federal financial aid through FAFSA, a.k.a., the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid. See our Step-By-Step Guide To Completing The 2019-2020 FAFSA Questions for help in filling out this notoriously complicated form.
You may have to pay out-of-pocket for some books and fees, but you may be able to have some or all of those costs reimbursed.
What you can major in
Walmart originally allowed employees to major in a select few options: business and supply chain management.
However, the store has recently expanded the program, allowing staffers to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in a number of programs.
Bachelor's programs include:
- Computer science
- Computer and network security
- Computing technology
- Information technology
- Business administration
- Business leadership
- Supply chain management
- Operations management
- Transportation and Logistics
Associate's programs include:
Benefits for high-school students
The recent program extension also includes some extremely useful benefits for college-bound high school students. Those include:
- Scheduling options that allow for flexibility or the option for "core hours," in which you can work the same days and shifts for up to 13 weeks
- Free ACT and SAT prep
- Up to seven hours of free college credit through Live Better U’s College Start program
Additional benefits and perks
College credit for job training
If you receive additional job training through Walmart's Academies' program, you may be able to apply some of that instruction toward college credits. Translation: You'll have to take fewer classes to earn your degree.
Academic counselors at Guild Education are available to help Walmart employees with all their college questions—from the application process, to selecting a major, to choosing courses.
Walmart has also extended free high-school completion benefits to family members of qualified store employees.
If you complete your degree through the LiveBetterU program, you may be eligible for a bonus of $1,500. Walmart estimates that up to 5,000 associates each year will be eligible.
If you're unsure about going to college online, check out our post on 8 Reasons Why Online Education is Better than Traditional.