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BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Walmart announced Tuesday that it will pay for 100% of college tuition and books for employees through its Live Better U education program.

Previously, employees paid a $1-per-day fee for access to LBU.

Starting Aug. 16, that fee will be removed for about 1.5 million part-time and full-time Walmart and Sam’s Club employees, allowing them to earn college degrees or learn trade skills without taking on additional debt.

The Bentonville-based retailer said in a Tuesday release that it is committed to investing nearly $1 billion over the next five years in “career-driven training and development.”

“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,” said Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart.

Since LBU launched in 2018, more than 52,000 employees have participated in the program and 8,000 have graduated. Nearly 28,000 employees have been active in an LBU program this summer, Walmart said.

The company is also adding four new academic partners: Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and Pathstream. Walmart has existing partnerships with Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University and Voxy EnGen.

Walmart says each was chosen for their “history of success with adult and working learner programs as well as their focus on degree completion.”

“We’re also excited to add in-demand college degree and certificate options in business administration, supply chain and cybersecurity. These additional offerings join a robust catalog of programs to set associates up for new career opportunities,” said Stomski. “Our education offerings tie directly to our growth areas at Walmart, and what better way to fill the pipeline of future talent than with our own associates.”

Employees are eligible for LBU on their first day at Walmart, the company said, adding that the educational programs are “picked for the future of work.”