LADD — The cost of college keeps rising, so it wasn’t tough for Brad Fritz to accept an “almost-free” opportunity to work toward a degree.

The offer to enroll for online college for a second bachelor’s degree for $1 a day came to Fritz from his employer. Fritz, a Ladd resident and piano teacher at Illinois Valley Community College, works an overnight shift three days/33 hours a week at Walmart Distribution Center in Spring Valley.

Fritz is one of more than 6,500 Walmart and Sam’s Club associates who have been accepted into the Live Better U program since the announcement was made last year.

“It comes out to a dollar a day essentially, $365 a year to go back to school and get a bachelor’s (degree). I’m going back for a business management and leadership degree,” he said. He’s taking two courses per semester and seeking the degree from Bellevue University, which, Walmart says, is private, nonprofit university in Nebraska.

“Having spent thousands and thousands of dollars on my previous degree I understood the value of that investment and the potential return on that investment,” he said.

Fritz already has a music degree from Principia College, north of Alton, and considers himself a lifelong learner.

Fritz also enjoys physical work. He thinks he developed that while growing up on a farm in Wyoming, Ill.

“I got to try my hand at farming a little bit and have a great appreciation for the agriculture industry,” he said.

And conditions at the distribution center can be more pleasant than farm work.

“It is easier for sure, especially during the summer months and cleaning out bins (on the farm). Some of those more strenuous jobs trained me how to work hard, and honestly (taught me) the joy of working hard physically. I think there’s a certain therapy to working hard and putting in a hard day’s work,” Fritz said.

Sorting boxes quickly and properly at the distribution center keeps the job interesting.

“My job at Walmart is working on the receiving dock, so I’m receiving freight off of trailers and processing that. I run a forklift and then label and sort it and place boxes on conveyors,” he said.

“That’s one of the biggest pressures of the job is to be able to handle the freight and get it processed in a timely fashion. I actually enjoy the intellectual challenge of getting it right … It’s kind of a puzzle. Each truck you get into is a little different.”

He usually works 11 hours Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights, with a shift ending at 5:30 a.m. Tuesdays.

He and his wife, Melinda (or “Mindy”), are raising three kids, including Allie and Josie, ages 14 and 12½. His son is 3, and Brad appreciates that he can spend his days with him during the week before he starts going to school a year and a half from now. His wife owns two gift and apparel shops in Princeton, The Milk Moustache and Juniper & May.

In addition to working in some of his online schoolwork on his days off, he does some homework on weekends and when he wakes up in the afternoons between work nights.

To say the least, Mindy and Brad are quite busy, plus they have to get the kids to activities, and they’re refurbishing a more than 100-year-old house in Princeton before moving into it.

How does he handle the juggling act?

“Some weeks gracefully, some weeks not so much,” he admitted. “Obviously planning is a big part of it so I have my wife to thank for that.”

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