Recently, retail giant Walmart, the largest private employer in the nation, made big news in higher education by announcing a new tuition assistance program available to all of its U.S. employees. Walmart’s new program will enable its workers who do not currently hold a college degree to enroll at one of three universities for only one dollar per day out-of-pocket. The University of Florida, Brandman University, and Bellevue University – three non-profit universities that focus on adult learners – will offer degrees in business and supply chain management to Walmart employees who enroll in the program.
Today’s students are more diverse than they have ever been before. Lifelong learning and continuous postsecondary education is quickly becoming the norm. Walmart has recognized the needs of today’s students and their new program acknowledges and accommodates many of the barriers facing adults who want to return to school. Walmart requires no minimum GPA for participating employees so long as they pass the courses in which they enroll. Additionally, there is no penalty for employees who do not complete their educational program. The employees that choose to utilize this benefit will also be provided weekly academic counseling from Guild Education to help them navigate the application, enrollment, and path to completion of their degree. This support is often not offered to adult learners, and students often have many hurdles to overcome in order to obtain a postsecondary degree or credential. By combining non-academic supports alongside tuition assistance, Walmart is taking a step to meet the needs of today’s students by allowing them to potentially earn a degree and reap the benefits of a postsecondary education.
Walmart’s flexible benefits are an outstanding contribution to the progression and recognition of who today’s students really are. There are over 31 million adults with some college, but no degree. Challenges to completion facing today’s students include affordability, part-time vs. full-time, and work commitments, all of which Walmart’s new tuition subsidizing program will accommodate in order to allow adult employees and learners to grow and advance in their careers.
It remains to be seen whether other employers will follow the lead of Walmart, Starbucks, Chipotle, and other corporations that are investing in employee education benefits. But what is clear is the financial and organizational support of today’s employees will be a crucial part of ensuring that all of today’s students—adults, workers, parents, and more—have a pathway to economic success.
Read more about who today’s students really are in our 101 resource here.