Shared from yahoo! Money
walmart employee
Walmart store People Lead Amanda Nelson graduated from the retailer’s $1-a-day college program called Live Better U.

Amanda Nelson was skeptical when she first heard about Walmart (WMT)’s new employee benefit.

Back in 2015, the married mother of two teenagers joined the retail giant as a department manager at a store in Oklahoma City. Nelson learned about the company’s $1-a-day college program at the Walmart Academy — a training program located in the back of about 200 stores.

“The burdens of having to pay off a student loan they are very difficult, especially for a family where I have kids now that are starting to get up toward graduating and moving on themselves,” Nelson told Yahoo Finance.

She was still paying off student loans from a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice that she received in 2011. Yet Nelson decided to enroll in a business management and leadership program at Bellevue University — one of the institutions that are part of the big-box retailer’s generous college tuition perk called “Live Better U (LBU).”

With that, Nelson became one of the more than 12,000 associates actively enrolled in Walmart’s nascent debt-free employee college benefit that helps graduates get promoted and become more engaged at work.

She worked full-time, took courses online, and graduated on January 25 — but this time with no loan burden.

“Having to pay student loans, it’s tough. That’s why I appreciate the LBU program so much. I’m already done, and there’s no debt,” the 35 year-old added.

How it got started

In the summer of 2018, the big-box retailer and the country’s largest private employer began offering the generous education perk to its 1.5 million associates.

Walmart workers can earn degrees through Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University, University of Florida, Brandman University, and Bellevue University. More than 20,000 have gone through the application process, and are waiting for the program to begin.

Originally, Live Better U offered degrees in business, leadership and management. In the last year, it expanded to offer technology-focused and health-related degrees based on the changing nature of Walmart’s jobs, and the new areas the company is heading.

“We’re always tying it back to the skills that we are going to need as a company going forward,” said Drew Holler, Walmart’s senior vice president of associate experience.

“What that results in is associates that go through the program get the opportunity to further their education without debt, but it also allows them to pick up the skills that we see as future skills that we need within the company,” he added.

So far, Walmart associates have completed more than 88,000 college credits — the equivalent of about $42.5 million. What’s more, the retailer sees the benefits inside the company with more “highly engaged” associates while at work.

“One of the biggest hurdles we’ve had to get over is associates didn’t believe it was just a dollar a day,” said Holler. “We kind of had to reassure that the case because it’s a great benefit.”

Employees have been “very responsive” to the program, he said, adding that “ we are seeing a higher engagement to these individuals while they are work.”

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