Economics in Brief: Walmart Will Pay for College for All Its Employees
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Economics in Brief: Walmart Will Pay for College for All Its Employees

(Brittany N. Gaddy/University of Maryland via AP)

Starbucks, Walmart and Amazon All Offer Financial Aid for College - But With a Catch

Walmart will provide free college tuition and books for its employees, NPR reports. The corporation previously had an education assistance program that required participants to pay $1 per day, a provision that has now been scrapped.

CNN adds that students now have 10 universities to choose from, as Walmart has now partnered with four new academic institutions including the University of Arizona and Southern New Hampshire University. Walmart has also committed to investing nearly $1 billion over the next five years in development programs and career training for workers who want to pursue majors in high-demand fields, according to the Washington Post.

Companies like Amazon and Starbucks also offer tuition reimbursement to improve worker retention and attract new employees. But these come with major strings, the progressive think tank Century Foundation found in 2018.

The Century Foundation reported that since Starbucks offers aid through reimbursements rather than upfront payment, students may have to take substantial student loans in order to pay for college upfront. And many of these programs cap the amount of assistance they provide, with Starbucks’ program making students pay anywhere from $324 to $451 per credit. Most of these programs also limit what employees may study; Amazon, for example, only pays for “associate’s or vocational certificates in ‘high demand’ fields,” The Century Foundation reported. Walmart similarly limits employees to degrees in certain skilled trades, logistics and supply chain management, and business administration and cybersecurity.

President of MacArthur Foundation Announces Support for Reparations

The president of the MacArthur Foundation, John Palfrey, announced the organization’s support for reparations in an address to the City Club of Chicago, The Chicago Sun Times reports.

Palfrey cited the pandemic’s disproportionate economic impact and police brutality toward African Americans as reasoning. The foundation has reexamined previous donations and will now offer more funds to groups that promote equity. He added that Black-led organizations have played a pivotal role in social movements across the country, but still face low funding in comparison to white-led organizations.

“Reparations is one way to create the conditions for justice to thrive in the United States,” Palfrey said. “The legacy of slavery and anti-Black oppression has made reparations necessary.”

So far, the MacArthur Foundation has announced $80 million in grants supporting racial justice, with one of the largest awards going to the Barack Obama Foundation. Palfrey also said that the foundation’s $120 million Equitable Recovery program is exceeding its goal to provide over 50% of its funds to organizations led by or aiding people of color.

A Georgia University Will Clear Student Balances From the Pandemic

Clark Atlanta University announced it will clear account balances from spring 2020 through summer 2021 for its nearly 4,000 students.

The university said it was able to provide financial relief due to support from the federal government through the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Of the $2.2 trillion Congress allotted, $14 billion went to the Office of Postsecondary Education to help college students across the country. The U.S. Department of Education later on announced an additional $21.2 billion in aid to higher education institutions in January of 2021.

Funds allowed the university to provide emergency financial aid, decrease tuition and fees for the 2020-2021 academic year and purchase hotspots and laptops for students impacted by the digital divide.

“We understand these past two academic years have been emotionally and financially difficult on students and their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why we will continue to do all we can to support their efforts to complete their CAU education,” said Clark Atlanta University President Dr. George French Jr.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi.

Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for summer 2021. Burga is completing her degree in political science and journalism at Rutgers University, with plans to graduate in May of 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate voices of underrepresented communities in her work.  

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