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Walmart targets high-schoolers with enhanced educational offerings

Amid a tight labor market, Walmart is reaching out to high school students with new enticements, including debt-free college benefits.

The nation's largest private employer is expanding its platform of education benefits, which it consolidated under the “Live Better U” banner in March 2019. The program, which offers an assortment of business and supply chain degrees for a $1 a day, now provides an additional 14 technology degrees and certificates, including cybersecurity, computer science, computer and network security, and computing technology, at the same $1 a day cost.

The program is also reaching out to high-school students by offering what Walmart calls an “end-to-end workforce solution.” This includes access to jobs, work-based training for foundational “soft” skills as well as more advanced vocational skills, and access to jobs with scheduling options for flexibility or core hours (work the same days and shifts for up to 13 weeks). It also includes free ACT and SAT prep, up to seven hours of free college credit through Live Better U’s College Start program, and admission to the Live Better U $1 a day college program upon completion of high school.

In the coming months, Walmart plans to add more degrees and certificates in additional fields that meet current workforce demand. The discounter is also creating the Live Better U Scholar Awards, a graduation bonus program for Walmart U.S. store associates who have not previously completed college credits. The award 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.

Degrees and certificates are available from six non-profit universities: Southern New Hampshire University, Purdue University Global, Wilmington University, 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. The benefits are all offered in partnership with education benefits platform Guild Education.

“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.”
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