Here's why Walmart's '$1 a day' college tuition promise is way too good to be true
Walmart employees walking through one of the company's stores. Image via Walmart Corporate/Creative Commons.

Walmart made headlines this week with the announcement of a new plan that will allow employees to go to college for just $1 a day, with the company footing the rest of the bill for tuition, books and fees. Upon closer inspection, however, the plan that sounds much too good to be true reveals itself to be exactly that.

Vox reported Friday that the fine print of Walmart's plan show it to be "much more restrictive than those headlines suggest."

"It’s essentially a bulk purchasing discount for a narrow range of online college courses," reporter Matthew Yglesias wrote.

The report noted that the program only allows employees to take online courses at three schools — University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University — and only lets them seek bachelor's or associate's degrees in supply chain management or business.

"It’s a nice opportunity for Walmart employees to gain a chance at upward mobility off the retail floor, and that’s likely the point," Yglesias wrote. "Unlike higher cash wages (which of course can be used for online college tuition as well as rent, gasoline, movie tickets, medical expenses, etc.), the tuition benefit is likely to be disproportionately appealing to people who are on the more ambitious end of the distribution."

Walmart, the report continued, is not the first company to incentivize employees taking industry-specific courses. Earlier this year, McDonalds, Kroger, Chick-Fil-A and a number of American hotels announced similar tuition benefit programs, and Starbucks has for four years offered a substantial tuition reimbursement program as well.

While the benefits are in many cases laudable, Yglesias wrote that companies undertaking tax-exempt tuition programs continue to resist simply paying their employees more — an endeavor Walmart could easily accomplish if it wanted to.