Walmart said Tuesday that it would soon begin paying 100% tuition and book fees for its employees attending classes and courses at a select handful of colleges and universities.
In a press release, Walmart said that beginning Aug. 16, it would drop the $365 annual fee for its workers to join its Live Better U education program. That means that all 1.5 million Walmart and Sam's Club employees will be eligible to earn college degrees from 10 academic institutions at the company's total expense.
According to Walmart, the company launched the Live Better U program in June 2018 to help its employees pursue their education.
The program covers tuition and books for employees taking certain classes at Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University and Voxy EnGen.
On Tuesday, Walmart said that it was adding four more "academic partners" to the program — Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and Pathstream. The company also said that the institutions would now be offering new degrees and certificate programs like business administration, supply chain and cybersecurity.
CNN reports that workers must remain employed with Walmart either part-time or full-time while taking classes to be eligible for free tuition.
"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, Walmart's senior vice president of learning and leadership, said in a 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."
Walmart says that 52,000 employees have taken part in the Live Better U program since its inception, and about 8,000 have already graduated.
The move comes as Walmart and other retailers battle a labor shortage in the industry. In May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said there were 974,000 job openings in the retail sector.
In February, Walmart announced it was raising its average wage for its employees to $15 an hour, though its $11 an hour starting wage still ranks behind retail rivals Target and Amazon.
Other large employers like Chipotle have also moved to increase wages in recent months as a way to attract new employees.