Walmart will pay 100% of its associates' college tuition and book costs, the company announced on Tuesday.
The Live Better U education program is removing its $1-a-day fee, making all 1.5 million part-time and full-time Walmart and Sam’s Club associates in the United States eligible for full funding of their college tuition beginning on Aug. 16, according to a press release.
"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," Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart, said. "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."
The company, which said it is "committed to eliminating the burden of education debt," plans to invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years in career-driven training and development.
Walmart also announced Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, and Pathstream would join its existing list of academic partners, which includes Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University, and Voxy EnGen.
"We are honored to be a part of the industry-leading Live Better U program at the nation's largest private employer and look forward to welcoming Walmart and Sam’s Club associates into the Wildcat family," University of Arizona President Robert Robbins said.
With U.S. student debt topping $1 trillion, leaders in the federal government have pushed in recent months for student loan forgiveness. In April, President Joe Biden directed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to compile a memo that included an option to cancel up to $50,000 of debt per eligible person.
Biden previously backed proposals to cancel up to $10,000 worth of debt, but more liberal members of Congress, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have urged him to cancel $50,000.
"It's time for President Biden to #CancelStudentDebt," Warren wrote on Twitter on June 25. "People need this. Our country needs this. And one of the best ways to create a 21st-century economy is by investing in people who have invested in their own education."
On July 7, Biden appointed Toby Merrill, a Harvard law professor who backed Warren's proposal, to serve in the Department of Education's legal division.
Some opponents of student debt forgiveness echo Biden's stance that the proposal benefits those in higher-income brackets. A report from the Federal Reserve released in September 2020 found that the majority of student loan debt, roughly 60%, is held by the top 40% of income earners, who account for about three-quarters of all loan payments. The lowest-income earners hold less than 20% of all federal student loan debt by comparison.
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Original Author: Carly Roman
Original Location: Walmart to pay for employees' full college tuition