BENTONVILLE, Arkansas: Retailer Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., has announced it will cover the full cost of tuition and books for full-time and part-time employees enrolled in colleges starting August 16.
Nearly 1.5 million full-time and part-time Walmart staff will be eligible for the program, Reuters reported.
The US retail giant also said it will end the $1-a-day fee paid by employees at Walmart and subsidiary Sam's Club participating in its Live Better U educational initiative, which offers college degrees, skills training, and other certificate programs.
According to Walmart, nearly 28,000 of its employees have joined the educational program this summer alone, while 8,000 have graduated since it began in 2018.
With thousands of its employees living below the poverty line, Walmart has long faced criticism from labor advocates. It has also been under fire for paying lower wages than rivals, such as Amazon.com, Target, and Kroger.
In February this year, the retailer announced it was raising the average hourly pay for U.S. workers to at least $15.25, and the following month it unveiled plans to further increase hourly wage for workers on the U.S. east and west coasts, where competition for labor among retailers and the cost of living are both high.
Walmart's decision to pay tuition for employees has come amid a widening labor shortage in the U.S., which has prompted employers, particularly in the retail and restaurant sectors, to roll out benefits and bump up wages to retain workers.