Wal-Mart offering debt free college

Local News
July 2 OTD - Wal-Mart_1473844041003311-159532

Walmart is committed to winning the future of retail and knows investing in its people is essential to serving customers today and in the future.

To help prepare its workforce for tomorrow, the retailer is expanding its Live Better U education benefit to include new technology degrees and certificates for $1 a day and offering high school students a bridge into the workforce, including access to all its learning programs.

These enhancements come a year after Walmart announced the education benefit, which is designed to help remove barriers — like cost, time and earning a relevant degree in a changing economy — that too often keep adult learners from furthering their educations.

High school students face challenges when it comes to work and education. The cost of college remains a significant barrier for many high school students, which often leads to costly student loans. The Center for Microeconomic Data recently reported that student loan debt is now nearly $1.5 trillion. At the same time, fewer and fewer teens are entering the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It estimates that by 2024 only 26 percent of teens will have a job. It’s been shown that having a job helps teens build confidence, work ethic, independence, financial knowledge, and perhaps most importantly, creates work experience that helps students as they transition into adulthood and a career.

High School Expansion

Walmart’s program provides students an end-to-end workforce solution, from access to jobs, to building foundational soft skills and more advanced skills through work-based training, and an opportunity to earn a debt-free college degree. Along with other eligible Walmart associates, high school students will now have access to:
Jobs with scheduling options for flexibility or core hours (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, andA debt-free college degree through Live Better U (upon high school completion) in the in-demand fields of technology, business or supply chain management at six nonprofit universities.

Technology Degrees and Certificates

Walmart is expanding its offering of debt-free degrees that associates can earn through Live Better U. The additional 14 technology degrees and certificates — like cyber security, computer science, computer and network security and computing technology — are in addition to the business and supply chain degrees currently offered for $1 a day.

The technology additions to Live Better U highlight the importance of Walmart’s enterprise-wide digital transformation while also providing associates opportunities for economic mobility. Live Better U’s technology programs — in addition to the retail management and business management degrees — create career pathways both within the retailer and externally. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer fields grew by 21 percent from 2009 to 2015 — more than four times the rate of roles outside of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) sector.

In the coming months, the company plans to add even more degrees and certificates in additional fields that will support both the growing Walmart business and demand in the overall U.S. workforce.

Completion Bonus

Walmart is creating the Live Better U Scholar Awards, a graduation bonus program for Walmart U.S. associates who have not previously completed college credits. The award underscores Live Better U’s focus on completion, celebrates the associate’s achievements, and will offset — and in many cases pay back — the associate’s $1 a day contribution to the program. Up to 5,000 associates each year will be eligible for the awards valued at $1,500 each.

About Live Better U

Live Better U meets associates where they are on their educational journey by creating access, removing barriers and empowering associates to go as far in their education — and careers — as their hard work and talents will take them. The program includes the debt-free $1 a day degree program, free high school completion for associates and eligible family members, discounts on higher education programs like master’s degrees, free foreign language learning and much more — all in partnership with Guild Education. Additionally, associates can get college credit for training they receive on the job through our Academies. Hundreds of thousands of associates have already undergone skills training equivalent to more than $300 million in college credits toward the program.

Associates can now earn degrees and certificates at six nonprofit universities, which were selected for their success with adult learners. Southern New Hampshire University, Purdue University Global and Wilmington University are new to Live Better U and join University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University.

Less than a year after launch, more than 7,500 Walmart associates from all 50 states have been accepted into at least one of the programs — ahead of the retailer’s projections.

“Since launching with Guild a year ago, thousands of Walmart associates have now headed back to school debt-free, collectively saving tens of millions of dollars in student debt,” said Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education. “As the largest employer in the nation, Walmart’s education program is creating unparalleled access for millions of Americans to gain a meaningful education and economic mobility.”

What Others are Saying about Live Better U

Paul LeBlanc, president and CEO of Southern New Hampshire University
“Walmart is taking the lead on workforce development, connecting their employees with the opportunity to earn a degree that will help them get ahead in their life and career without taking on debt. SNHU’s collaboration with Walmart will expand access to education for thousands of associates and is a model for aligning employer demand with the kind of workforce-applicable higher education we have pioneered at SNHU.”

Dr. Mary Hawkins, President of Bellevue University
“Live Better U is more than an education assistance program; it’s a strategy that creates opportunities to learn and apply learning at work. We’ve had incredibly active student participation by Walmart associates in our business cohort degree programs, and we’ve seen retention rates that are above our university average. It’s been a remarkable first year of the program, and we are excited to embark on year 2 as we expand our degree offerings to Walmart associates.”

Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education
“Walmart’s expansion of the Live Better U program — adding technology degrees and certificates like computer science and cybersecurity — is another step in the company’s significant commitment to train and educate workers for jobs of the future.”

John Gomperts, president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance
“Employers need people who have the education and skills to thrive in a fast-changing workplace. That’s why Walmart’s investment in developing the education and workplace skills of its employees is so significant. Walmart is showing how employers can help young people be ready, connected, and supported to succeed in the workplace.”

Danette Howard, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Lumina Foundation
“Lumina is proud to partner with Walmart to measure the effects of the Live Better U program on its employees and its bottom line. Many companies support employees with tuition benefits, but few have built programs like Walmart’s, which is built to encourage workers to finish their educations. The introduction of the graduation bonus is one more way Walmart is creating pathways for its associates.”

Eric Seleznow, senior adviser for JFF
“There is real power in work-based learning. When young people work, they gain critical employment skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and communications. These skills serve them well immediately and in their future. This enhanced program is the latest example of how employers can step up to support continued education and learning for America’s young people and prepare them for the careers of today and tomorrow.”

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