Always one for a bargain, Wal-Mart is now helping its 1.4 million employees to earn college degrees.
The country's largest private employer will front $50 million over the next three years to help its workers cover books and discounted tuition at American Public University, a for-profit online college that enrolls 70,000 students around the world.
The New York Times reports that while about half of Wal-Mart's employees have a high school diploma, most lack a college degree.
“If 10 to 15 percent of employees take advantage of this, that’s like graduating three Ohio State Universities,” said Sara Martinez Tucker, a former under secretary of education who is now on Wal-Mart’s external advisory council. “It’s a lot of Americans getting a college degree at a time when it’s becoming less affordable.”\n
While a Wal-Mart manager can make $130,000 a year or more, the hourly wage of an average employee is $11.75. Even factoring in the discount, a two-year associate's degree at APU will still set Wal-Mart employees back another $7,900.
Might this be the company's latest attempt at rescuing its tarnished image? Or is it merely preparing its employees for jobs elsewhere?
Despite being accused of being "employee unfriendly" and anti-union, there's also that pesky ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit that now encompasses one million women.