Walmart offers $1-a-day college tuition for its workers. How does that work?

Walmart is expanding efforts to recruit young employees with tuition assistance to attract employees in a tight labor market.


June 6, 2019

Earlier this week, Walmart announced it will offer students free SAT prep and expand its $1-a-day college tuition program in a bid to recruit new employees.

Although Walmart’s programs do have restrictions, they can be a good deal for young workers — and they also highlight how far Walmart and other employers will go to recruit young workers in a tight market.

When the employment’s high, Walmart’s labor pool runs dry

With unemployment levels in the US at their lowest point in decades, retailers like Walmart — with 1.5m employees, the largest private employer in the US — sometimes struggle to fill job openings because applicants have so many other options.

Just 25k of Walmart’s 1.5m workers — or 1.7% — are in high school, putting the company’s number of young workers well below the industry average and inspiring the company to offer incentive programs.

Giving students debt relief is a good deal for Walmart

Walmart launched its tuition program last year in partnership with 3 colleges that offered degrees in business and supply chain management. 

Now, Walmart is expanding the program to 6 colleges and several more degrees. So far, Walmart has accepted 7.5k employees into the program, but it expects 60k to go through the program in the next 4 years.

Since most employees take courses online and Walmart gets the educational equivalent of a bulk discount, the program pays off: Similar education programs have delivered returns on investment of 129%.

A budding rivalry between Walmart U. and McDonald’s State

Other large employers have also turned to the expensive higher education to find employees: McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Chick-fil-A all offer similar tuition programs.

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