Walmart woos students with free test prep, debt-free college
Walmart (WMT), the largest private employer in the U.S., is making a big push to recruit high school students by offering them free standardized test prep, flexible work schedules, and debt-free college.
High school students currently make up less than 25,000 of the company’s 1.4 million U.S.-based associates, according to the retail giant. But with student loan debt sitting at $1.5 trillion and fewer teens projected to enter the workforce, Walmart is trying to make itself a more attractive option for young workers.
“We know that high school students face challenges when it comes to work and education. We know that the cost of college remains a significant barrier for many high school students, and also leads to student loans and costly debt,” Julie Murphy, the EVP of People, told Yahoo Finance in an interview.
Eligible teens will be given more predictable and flexible work schedules, in addition to free test prep courses for the ACT and SAT. After completing high school, those workers will be available for Walmart’s $1 a day college education benefit.
Almost a year ago, Walmart launched its $1 a day college program for its 1.4 million associates now known as “Live Better U.” To date, more than 7,500 Walmart associates have enrolled in the program, which the company said is ahead of expectations.
In addition to earning $1 a day college, the program also offers discounts on master’s degrees, and the ability to finish high school for associates and eligible relatives.
Walmart also said on Tuesday it would start providing financial bonuses for some of its associates who’ve never taken college credit before upon finishing the company’s college program.
Up to 5,000 of its associates each year will be eligible for its Live Better U Scholar Awards, valued at $1,500 a piece.
“The award underscores Live Better U’s focus on completion, celebrates the associate’s achievements, and will offset — and in many cases pay back — the associate’s $1 a day contribution to the program,” the company said in a statement.