- Walmart is expanding a tuition benefit that offers its 1.5 million U.S. employees access to online degrees through a set of partner universities for $1 a day.
- By adding seven bachelor's degrees and two career diplomas in health-related fields to its Live Better U program, the retailer is addressing the growing demand for health care workers across the U.S. as it moves to increase its own presence in that sector.
- The additions also raise the count of programs offered through the benefit to 50, joining offerings in technology, supply chain and business topics.
Walmart is one of several major employers to offer its workers an opportunity to access education that could help them move up in the ranks. In recent months, Papa John's announced it would offer corporate employees free associate, bachelor's and master's degrees. And JetBlue expanded its Scholars program to include master's degrees.
The latest addition to the Walmart's tuition benefit includes bachelor's degrees in health science, health and wellness, and health care management/administration from Purdue University Global and Bellevue, Southern New Hampshire and Wilmington universities.
Two career diplomas for pharmacy technicians and opticians are also available, offered by career training provider Penn Foster. The diplomas and degrees will be offered through Guild Education, a third-party platform.
The additions come as the company makes a push to expand its footprint in the health care sector. It already has some 5,000 pharmacies, 3,000 vision centers and 400 hearing centers across its Walmart and Sam's Club brands. Earlier this month, Walmart opened its first health care center, in Georgia, offering services such as primary care, labs, X-rays and counseling. It plans to open another location in the state next year.
Across the country, health care workers are in limited supply. The U.S. could be short by as many as 122,000 primary care and specialty physicians by 2032, the result of a growing aging population and limited impact from efforts to streamline care delivery, according to research from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
In response, colleges are adding new or expanding existing campus-based and online medical programs, increasing their nondegree offerings and, in some cases, waiving tuition to encourage students to pursue lower-paying areas of medicine such as family practice, rather than more lucrative specialties.