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Chrysler Dealer Employees Get Free College

by David Zatz on

Participating Chrysler dealers will provide all their employees with free college educations, via Strayer University. Around forty fields will be available at the reputable on-line/in-person school, with the bills paid by FCA and Chrysler dealers.

Automotive News’ Larry Vellequette broke the news today.

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The program is a first for the auto industry, though Wal-Mart has signed a moderately similar deal, providing subsidized education for employees, with the American Public University System, and more recently Starbucks has set up a program, though these programs require students to lay out money up front and get reimbursed, which likely hinders participation.

The cost covers individual classes and associates’, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs.  It is a voluntary deal for United States dealers, and starts today at 356 dealers in the Southeast, expanding nationwide in the third quarter of 2015. Dealers will pay a flat fee.

FCA’s director of dealer training, John Fox, said they were trying to attract “the best talent” and to address the industry’s high turnover rate.  FCA’s self-stated dealer employee loss rate is around 50% per year, causing large wastes in training and hurting customer relationships. One dealer told Allpar it was hard to retain service personnel, and that when they left, any learned skills left with them.

Normally, a four-year degree at Strayer costs between $42,000 and $50,000, so the free education may be a substantial advantage for Chrysler dealers. (FCA is paying less.) Most four-year degree programs cost far more — even triple that amount — and students end up carrying high levels of debt. The deal may provide Chrysler dealers with a better pick of new employees, as well as greater retention.

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Strayer has an enrollment of 40,000, and has 77 campuses as well as an on-line presence. The university is accredited and based in Washington, D.C. Students pay no out of pocket fees, even for books.

Automotive News wrote that FCA had around 118,000 employees in 2,600 dealerships. All of them, from lot attendant to manager, can use the program. Strayer will take life experiences and prior college classes into account when figuring degree eligibility, and will work with FCA to add relevant material to its courses where it can.

Strayer said it had deals with many companies, but all were smaller than this one, which has a dedicated internal team. Every employee has an individual “success coach.” Overall, the program promises to make college possible for many people who could not otherwise afford it, while building the skills of dealership employees and keeping them around for longer periods of time.

Strayer University issued a press release this morning on its “[email protected]” and “[email protected]” programs, as well.  For more, see the original Automotive News article.

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