The stunning success of the Walmart education program for employees

Nearly one-fifth of the company’s hourly associates who have participated have been promoted.
By: | September 20, 2021
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The education and training program from Walmart that provides associates with 100% tuition and free books indeed has proven to be a source of upward mobility for employees, according to a report released by the Lumina Foundation.

Some 17% of those who took advantage of the opportunity to enter or continue postsecondary learning have earned promotions within the company since Live Better U’s inception in 2018. More than 56,000 associates have participated over the past three years in the program, which was created in partnership with Guild Education and other businesses. More than 7,200 credentials have been awarded to a very diverse pool of employees, which includes high school completion as well as college degrees.

“Walmart has taken a giant step toward improving the educational outcomes of its employees,” said Danette Howard, Lumina’s senior vice president and chief policy officer. “We hope that Walmart continues to study Live Better U’s impact across its diverse workforce and inspires other companies to do the same, building momentum for improved transparency and accountability.”

Walmart is one of many companies to offer education perks to associates. Both Amazon and Kroger have gotten onboard too, but Walmart’s is one of the biggest and one of the most transparent. Lumina’s study highlighted the successes of Live Better U and noted the welcoming steps Walmart had undertaken to ensure equity in the program and offer assistance to its hourly workforce. Across the board, Black, Hispanic/Latinx and White workers who advanced their studies through the program all enjoyed better outcomes—both performance and promotions—than those who didn’t.

Employees who have taken advantage of the program nearly mirror Walmart’s population—49% are White, 18% are Black and 16% are Hispanic/Latinx. Nearly one-third have pursued bachelor’s degrees, while 18% have pursued high school credentials or career diplomas.

“To our knowledge, this study represents the first time a company has shown employee outcomes disaggregated by race and ethnicity,” said Haley Glover, the report’s author and a Lumina strategy director. “Understanding program impact on diverse employee populations is necessary to building a program that is equitable in delivery and outcomes.”

Walmart’s number of students and programs have ballooned during the stretch—which includes the COVID-19 pandemic—from 4,000 students and 50-plus programs in 2018 to more than 30,000 students and 100 programs in 2021. Live Better U is expected to increase exponentially as it is now available to 1.6 million employees and is not a reimbursement program. Tuition is paid for upfront. Those who have gone through the company’s Academy program get further benefits such as qualifying for additional credits.

Prospective students, who sometimes work different hours than traditional 9-to-5 employees, enjoy the benefit of online learning from institutions such as Southern New Hampshire University, Bellevue University, and Purdue Global. Guild Education also offers guidance to those who need assistance. Lumina noted that Walmart’s program has a nice array of modern learning opportunities and solid career paths, including:

  • Associate in Arts: General Business
  • Associate of Applied Sciences: Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Arts: Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Science: Business Administration, Cybersecurity, Information Technology, Business Management and Leadership, Computer Information Systems, Computing Technology, Cloud Computing & Solutions, Business Administration, Healthcare Administration, Operations Management, Computer Science, Computer and Network Security, Healthcare Management, Supply Chain, Transportation and Logistics Management
  • Certificate: People & Business Leadership
  • Career Diploma: Electrician Training (Residential Electrician), Facilities Maintenance, HVACR Technician, Industrial Maintenance, Construction, Optician, Pharmacy Technician, Plumbing
  • College Start: A foundational program of introductory classes for bachelor’s degrees (ESL/Language Programs, High School Completion, SAT/ACT Preparation)