As back to school shopping season gets into full swing (gulp, already!?), the cost of college is top of mind for many – and with good reason. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.
Employees can take courses at the campuses or online, Walmart said, and there is no penalty for courses already taken if an employee leaves the company while enrolled in school. There’s also no requirement to continue working at Walmart for any period after receiving the degree. Walmart also currently offers subsidized programs to help employees get their high-school diploma.
Walmart told Second Nexus that 2,000 of its employees have completed applications for the college benefit and another 28,000 have initiated applications. A company spokesperson would not indicate how much the tuition program might cost the company. But the company coordinating the program – Guild Education – says such programs typically cost an employer $6,000 – $10,000 per worker annually. Last year, Walmart’s revenue topped $486 billion.
As with any corporate announcement, the devil is in the fine print details. Walmart employees, however, could have a tough time taking advantage of the program. One reason, according to Walmart employee activist group OUR Walmart, says that few employees will be able to attend college courses because of the company’s scheduling system.
“As soon as you tell Walmart you’re going to school, you lose access to a full-time schedule,” Andrea Dehlendorf, co-executive director of OUR Walmart.
“Because of Walmart’s erratic scheduling system, many people who work at Walmart are unable to plan to take college classes or even pick up their children from school,” said Cynthia Murray, who has been working at a Walmart store in Laurel, Md., for 18 years.
Walmart disputes that notion, telling Second Nexus that it chose Guild Education and the three schools it chose to partner with because they offered employees the most flexibility in scheduling both in-person and online courses.
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And therein lies the problem.