Target will offer its 340,000 U.S.-based part-time and full-time employees a new perk: a free college education.
The retailer announced Wednesday that it would offer its workers “the most comprehensive debt-free education assistance program available in the retail industry.”
The program starts this fall and provides “debt-free undergraduate degrees, certificates, certifications, free textbooks and more with no out-of-pocket costs” in 250 business-aligned programs from more than 40 schools, colleges and universities. Target says it will invest $200 million over the next four years in the program.
The announcement comes a week after Walmart, the largest private employer in the country, said it would pay for college tuition and books for its part-time and full-time associates.
►Target Circle guide: Here's what you need to know about the new shopper loyalty program
“Target employs team members at every life stage and helps our team learn, develop and build their skills, whether they’re with us for a year or a career,” Melissa Kremer, Target’s chief human resources officer, said in a statement. “We don’t want the cost to be a barrier for anyone, and that’s where Target can step in to make education accessible for everyone.”
The move also comes as many businesses say they are struggling to find and retain workers. Experts say some workers have not returned to work amid the coronavirus pandemic for multiple reasons, including concerns over COVID-19, child care and more.
Target says it will support workers taking courses for high school completion, college prep, English language learning and select certificates, certifications, boot camps, associate and undergraduate degrees.
Academic institutions included in the program are the University of Arizona, Oregon State University, University of Denver and eCornell along with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) including Morehouse College, Paul Quinn College and more.
For employees who pursue educational opportunities outside the select business-aligned programs within the Guild network of schools, including master’s degrees, Target says it will "provide direct payments to their academic institution of up to $5,250 for non-master's degrees and up to $10,000 for master’s degrees each year to reduce the burden of upfront, costly tuition payments."
Last week, Target gave its hourly full-time and part-time workers in stores, distribution centers and contact centers a $200 recognition bonus.
►McDonald's Saweetie Meal: McDonald’s next celebrity collaboration, the Saweetie Meal, launches Aug. 9 at restaurants nationwide
Contributing: Marina Pitofsky, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Target, Walmart paying for college for employees