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10/25/2021

Walmart Increases Education Equity Investments

Lisa Johnston
Senior Editor
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Walmart is adding three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to its Live Better U (LBU) program. Editorial credit: BCFC / Shutterstock.com
Walmart is adding three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to its Live Better U (LBU) program. Editorial credit: BCFC / Shutterstock.com

Walmart announced a number of new investments to help advance equity in education, including increasing access to jobs in technology.

The retailer is adding three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to its Live Better U (LBU) program: Morehouse College, North Carolina A&T State University and Spelman College. Under the program, developed in partnership with Guild Education and eligible to approximately 1.5 million Walmart and Sam’s Club employees, Walmart pays 100% of college tuition and books.

More than 300,000 Walmart associates are Black and African Americans. Eighteen percent of Live Better U participants are Black, and Walmart said Black associates who participated in the program are 88% more likely to receive promotions than non-participants.

About 65,000 associates have participated in an LBU program since its 2018 inception in 2018, with nearly 10,000 joining since the retailer announced this summer that it would pay for tuition and books.

The list of academic partners for Walmart’s LBU program now includes Bellevue University, University of Massachusetts Global, Johnson & Wales University, Louisiana State University online, Pathstream, Penn Foster Career School, Penn Foster High School, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, University of Arizona, University of Denver, Wilmington University, North Carolina A&T State University , Morehouse College, Spelman College and Voxy.

Lorraine Stomski, Walmart senior VP of learning and leadership, in a statement that the new partnerships further demonstrate the company's commitment to create a career path for associates. “As we work to become an even more diverse employer, what better way to fill the pipeline of future talent than with our own associates,” she added. 

[See also: Amazon to Pay College Tuition for Its Frontline]

The Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, meanwhile, will invest $3 million in a set of education grants as part of a $100 million commitment announced last year to address inequity across education, health, finance and criminal justice systems.

An initial focus aims to strengthen the post-secondary education system for Black and African American students.

An investment in the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies will further research on the barriers and gaps that exist within education and training for economic advancement. The research intends to provide insights on why education pathways, such as college and industry certifications, have not served as effective on-ramps to employment for Black and African Americans, particularly in high-demand jobs like technology and health care.

An investment in The 1890 Universities Foundation will help build staff capacity to prepare students for careers in fields such as agriculture, healthcare and technology, as well as develop a broadband strategy to meet university needs.

An investment in CodePath will help expand its computer science and technology courses to five of the 19 HBCUs in the 1890 Universities Foundation. CodePath, which aims to increase diversity in tech by transforming college computer science education, will also expand its mentorship, technical interview practice, and pre-internship services for students, all intended to strengthen the pathways for Black and African American students between college and technology careers.  

Finally, the company has also partnered with Jackson State University in Mississippi, pledging $2.4 million over three years to focus on academic and career enrichment and financial support. Investments will be made in case studies; an executive-in-residence program with Walmart leaders advising faculty on curriculum and lead mentoring circles; and supporting key athletic initiatives.