Walmart's $50 million commitment to a for-profit online education company, American Public Education, is the subject of an article in today's New York Times.
The article says the university will offer Walmart employees degrees in subjects such as retail management and transportation logistics handling, and that "a typical cashier would pay $11,700 for an associate degree and $24,000 for a four-year degree." Notwithstanding all the recent press attention to money manager Steve Eisman's attack on for-profit education, the Times article doesn't get into the question of whether these degrees will be financed with federal student loans or Pell grants in addition to the Walmart money and the money paid by the students. It'd be nice to know the answer.
There are already tax breaks for companies that help employees with education expenses. And there's a case to be made that if the government is going to be offering loans and grants to art history majors at Vassar, why shouldn't the same financing be available to transportation logistics majors at American Public Education? But you get to a fine line. If the education is really professional training for the benefit of a particular company (and its shareholders) rather than the degree recipient, should the taxpayers finance it? McDonald's famous Hamburger University? Goldman Sachs' training programs?