Walmart, the largest private employer in the country, announced on Tuesday it will pay for college tuition and books at a group of schools for its part-time and full-time associates.
The company issued a news release stating the move means approximately 1.5 million Walmart and Sam’s Club employees “can earn college degrees or learn trade skills without the burden of education debt.”
“We are creating a path of opportunity for our associates to grow their careers at Walmart, so they can continue to build better lives for themselves and their families,” Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart, said in the statement.
“This investment is another way we can support our associates to pursue their passion and purpose while removing the barriers that too often keep adult working learners from obtaining degrees,” Stomski added.
The company also announced it is canceling its $1 daily fee for employees to participate in its Live Better U program, which has offered access to programs to earn a degree or other training.
The program includes 10 academic partners for Walmart and Sam’s Club employees including Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and more. Participants in the program must continue to be part-time or full-time employees.
Walmart is also adding additional options for certificates and degrees, certificate and degree options, like business administration and cybersecurity.
The move comes as many businesses say they are struggling to find and retain workers. Experts say some U.S. workers have not returned to work amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic for multiple reasons, including concerns over COVID-19, child care and more.
Earlier this year Walmart raised pay for 425,000 workers. Its minimum wage is $11 an hour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Walmart will pay college tuition costs for employees