Walmart Inc.'s tuition-free, fully online educational program for employees has added the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, to its roster of approved schools and colleges, the company said Wednesday.
The Bentonville-based retailer also said it's expanding Live Better U, previously available only in the United States, to Walmart Canada.
Through Live Better U, Walmart and Sam's Club employees can now choose to earn a bachelor's degree from the Walton College of Business in supply chain management, marketing or general business. Other offerings include "short-form" programs in areas such as data science and purchasing fundamentals.
Since Walmart started Live Better U five years ago in partnership with Guild Education, the program has grown to offer more than 70 degree and certificate programs through 25 academic institutions. The University of Arkansas will be its 26th.
Registration on Guild's learning marketplace opens on June 20 for the fall semester.
Live Better U covers all costs of tuition and books for both full- and part-time workers starting on their first day on the job.
Lorraine Stromski, Walmart's senior vice president of associate learning and leadership, said that more than 104,000 workers have taken part in the program that has saved them nearly $500 million in tuition.
Walmart employs about 1.6 million workers in the U.S.
"We're looking forward to deepening our relationship with partners in Arkansas, where Walmart was founded and is headquartered, by welcoming the state's flagship university, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, into our family of partners," Stromski said.
Tara Sims, a nearly 20-year Walmart employee who currently works as an academy coach at the Fayetteville Supercenter, has been in the program for about a year. After taking a few college prep courses, she's working on a business administration degree with a focus on human resources at Southern New Hampshire University.
"I decided I wanted to further my career and Walmart has given me the opportunity to do that," Sims said. "I am a mother and I do have a family, so my concern was 'is this something I'll be able to do and still take care of my family?' So I wanted to start out small before deciding on a university."
"I love the flexibility that it offers and the confidence it's built in myself," Sims said, as well as being able to share that with her daughter.
"When I got on the honor roll, I would share that with her," Sims said. "Getting the email, [I'd say] 'Hey, come look at this,' and we'd be able to share that experience together."
"I want her to see me being successful and that going back to school is important to get your degree," she said. "So I really want to make sure I set a good example for her."
Cheryl Murphy, vice provost for distance education at the University of Arkansas, said the university as worked with Walmart for decades, though not necessarily through Live Better U.
"We needed to partner with Guild to make that happen," Murphy said. After a pause for the pandemic in the spring of 2020, she said, "we have made that happen, and we're thrilled, we're absolutely thrilled to be working in conjunction with Walmart on their Live Better U program."
"It embodies what we embrace so heavily here at the university," Murphy said. "And that is when you provide access to education, you provide opportunities."