As retailers search for ways to compete in a tight labor market, Target and Walmart have both announced new plans to pay for associates’ college tuition.
Walmart announced it will pay 100% of college tuition and books for associates through its Live Better U (LBU) education program, removing the $1 a day fee starting Aug. 16. This will allow around 1.5 million part-time and full-time Walmart and Sam’s Club associates in the U.S. to earn college degrees or learn trade skills without education debt.
Target said it is launching a Debt-Free Education Assistance Program to more than 340,000 frontline associates, beginning this fall. All part-time and full-time retail associates working in Target stores, distribution centers and headquarters locations in the U.S. will be eligible for debt-free assistance for select undergraduate degrees, certificates, and certifications, as well as free textbooks with no out-of-pocket costs starting on their first day of work at Target.
Target will invest $200 million over the next four years in its program, while Walmart said it is committing to invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years in career-driven training and development.
"Target employs team members at every life stage and helps our team learn, develop and build their skills, whether they're with us for a year or a career,” said Melissa Kremer, chief human resources officer, Target. “A significant number of our hourly team members build their careers at Target, and we know many would like to pursue additional education opportunities. We don't want the cost to be a barrier for anyone, and that's where Target can step in to make education accessible for everyone.”
“We are creating a path of opportunity for our associates to grow their careers at Walmart, so they can continue to build better lives for themselves and their families,” said Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart. “This investment is another way we can support our associates to pursue their passion and purpose while removing the barriers that too often keep adult working learners from obtaining degrees.”
Target’s Debt-Free Education Assistance Program
Target employees will have options for assistance through a program that Target has been building for several months with education and upskilling platform Guild Education.
Target will support associates taking courses for high school completion, college prep, English language learning and select certificates, certifications, bootcamps, associate and undergraduate degrees. They can can attend classes at more than 40 schools, colleges and universities, choosing from 250 business-aligned programs from Business Management and Operations to IT, Computer Science, Design and more.
Associates who opt into this program won't have any out-of-pocket costs and academic institutions include the University of Arizona, Oregon State University, University of Denver and eCornell along with HBCUs Morehouse College, Paul Quinn College and more.
For Target employees pursuing educational opportunities outside of the select business-aligned programs within the Guild network of schools, including master's degrees, Target will provide direct payments to their academic institution of up to $5,250 for non-master's degrees and up to $10,000 for master's degrees each year to reduce the burden of up-front, costly tuition payments. Target will also ensure that smaller out-of-pocket expenses and fees, such as textbooks and course fees, also be covered at no cost to them.
Walmart’s Live Better U Program
Walmart is adding college degree and certificate options in business administration, supply chain and cybersecurity to its LBU program, in addition to dropping the dollar a day cost.
“These additional offerings join a robust catalog of programs to set associates up for new career opportunities,” Stomski said. “Our education offerings tie directly to our growth areas at Walmart, and what better way to fill the pipeline of future talent than with our own associates.”
In addition, Walmart will add four academic partners, including Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and Pathstream. These complement the existing partners: Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University and Voxy EnGen. Each of these institutions were chosen for their history of success with adult and working learner programs as well as their focus on degree completion.
Since launching LBU in 2018, more than 52,000 associates have participated in the program to date and 8,000 have already graduated. Nearly 28,000 associates have been active in a LBU program this summer.