June 4, 2019
By Matt Smith, Corporate Affairs
Last year, Walmart partnered with Guild Education to create Live Better U, a groundbreaking benefit giving associates the ability to get a college education for only $1 a day. That program is now expanding to include more degrees and incentives for high school students, allowing even more people to take advantage. (Learn more at LivebetterU.com.)
How are real associates responding? We talked with three enrollees about their experiences.
Janine: Just Getting Started
Janine Johnson always wanted to go back to school to pursue a bachelor’s degree, but she knew she didn’t want to go into debt to do it.
So, when Walmart announced affordable college degrees through Live Better U, she knew this was the chance she had been waiting for. She started investigating the degree plans the day after the program was announced.
“When I found out it was going to be $1 a day, that was the icing on the cake for me,” Janine beamed. “Once I started my classes and saw there were other Walmart associates [online] with me, I thought that was the coolest part.”
Having other Walmart associates in classes means that there is always someone who understands where Janine is coming from. Because all the classes are online, she can test new ideas and network with other associates around the United States.
Janine is the first from her family to earn a college degree, and she feels like a whole new world is being revealed.
“I feel like I’m opening the door for generations after me to know that anything is possible,” Janine said.
Janine chose to pursue a degree in business management and leadership, because she wants to move up into positions that allow her to help develop more people. She wants to make a difference for others, and that includes her own family – especially her 5-year-old son.
Now, it seems that everything Janine does revolves around education. She is a facilitator at a Walmart Academy in Orlando, Florida, and she is inspiring others to pursue their educational dreams. She’s very eager to tell anyone who will listen how proud she is that her brother just graduated with a Master of Arts in divinity, and her sister is also pursuing a master’s degree.
She has another brother who started his college journey a couple weeks before she started Live Better U in October of 2018. They even got their first semester grades at the same time. That’s when Janine realized that her dreams were becoming reality: She was back in school and on track to graduate in 2020.
Janine’s just getting started, though. She has plans to pursue a master’s degree after finishing her bachelor’s program. And, she wants all Walmart associates to know that the opportunity is a special and rare benefit worth taking advantage of. Janine says that if her fellow associates are thinking of starting a degree at Live Better U for $1 a day, they shouldn’t wait.
“The time is now!” she urged.
Dustin: A 13-year School Break
When Dustin Clemons graduated high school, he already had college credits through a college preparatory program at his school. But like many young people, he decided that he just wanted a year-long break. That year quickly multiplied into 13.
He always wanted to go back to school, but like many working adults, Dustin’s main issues were time and money. If he were to go to an on-campus school, he’d have to cut down on work hours and probably withdraw from full-time status. Dropping to part time at work while paying for traditional tuition would be a double whammy to his finances.
That wasn’t really an option for Dustin. He has a 3-year-old son, and his wife is an assistant manager at a Walmart supercenter that’s an hour-and-a-half drive from their home in Highland, Illinois. Dustin’s family relies on him to be home to take care of his son largely because of his wife’s commute.
He learned a lot from his wife. When their son was young, he watched her balance work and school at a traditional university, all while being a new mom. The amount of time she spent just getting to and from classes on campus was difficult. So, he knew that traditional schools weren’t a viable option. He needed an online program that allowed him to study and take classes at home.
When Live Better U was announced in 2018, Dustin knew this was his chance. Live Better U classes are based online, so students can adjust their class schedules to their busy lives.
Dustin admits that juggling school, work and family is not always easy, but he makes it work by using his lunch breaks to study and finish his homework. Now his biggest fear is a positive one: a looming public speaking class.
“I’m really not good with public speaking, and I’m concerned about that,” he said with a nervous chuckle.
After a 13-year break from education, Dustin has decided to start slowly with an associate degree. He’s not stopping there, though. Justin has plans to get his bachelor’s degree, and he wants to promote to an assistant manager at Walmart.
He loves that he doesn’t have to reduce his hours at work while still being able to take care of his family.
“There’s really no drawback,” Dustin said.
Angie: A New Lease on Life
Angie Deen wanted to be an opera singer the first time she went to college. After getting a music degree and spending some time working in Denver as a singer, she was diagnosed with a kidney disorder that continued to get worse over the years.
She was already on the kidney transplant waiting list when she decided to take a job in the deli of the Walmart store in Goodyear, Arizona. Angie was on the waiting list for four and a half years, and she was on dialysis for the two years preceding her transplant in 2017.
Angie didn’t realize how bad she felt until she began recovering from her kidney transplant.
“Oh my god. This is how normal people feel,” she remembered.
She had energy, and she was eager for new activities, especially in her social life.
“It changed my perspective on a lot of things,” she said. “It’s allowed me to see that life has so many more things to offer. It made me realize that I want to do things to change my life.”
So, Angie started to explore all the things that were available to her. One of those things was Live Better U.
“I think this program came around at an interesting time in my life, because I felt (for the first time in a long time) that I had a future,” Angie recalled.
She jumped at the opportunity. In August 2018, she began working toward a college degree in supply chain logistics management through Live Better U. Already having earned that music degree, she was able to transfer credits from her basic classes easily and jump right into core classes for her degree.
Angie is grateful for so much now. She mentioned how supportive her family and coworkers were during her transplant procedure. When she walked back into to work the first day, management in her store started clapping to welcome her.
Now, Angie is working in online grocery pickup, and she’s excited for new opportunities. She’s looking for chances to apply what she’s learning, like roles within Walmart’s supply chain organization.
Angie wants every Walmart associate to know that it’s possible to make your life better, and Live Better U is a great, low-risk opportunity.
“Give it a shot,” she said. “What’s the worst that could happen?