Thousands of employees at U.S. car dealerships will have the opportunity to get a free college degree as part of a program announced today by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Strayer University. Employees at Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat dealerships across the country will have the opportunity to get associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degrees in disciplines including business administration, accounting, education and information systems, among other things, according to a news release from FCA US.
Employees at dealerships in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee can now enroll in courses for the summer and fall terms, either online or at one of Strayer’s campuses. Strayer University is a four-year, private, for-profit institution with an enrollment of about 40,000. There are 80 campuses in 24 states, but degrees can be completed entirely online. Dealerships in those six states (FCA US’s Southeast Business Center) are the first to offer the program, but nationwide enrollment at Fiat Chrysler’s 2,630 U.S. dealers is planned for the third quarter of this year. More than 118,000 people are employed at Fiat Chrysler dealerships in the U.S.
Dealers will pay a flat fee to opt into the program, no matter how many employees take advantage of the opportunity, and workers who enroll will have the cost of their tuition, fees and books covered, said John Fox, director of dealer training at FCA US. Strayer’s website lists total tuition and fees for a bachelor’s degree at $58,250.
Employees pay nothing out of pocket, Fox said, and employees are not limited in their education goals, meaning they can choose to take a single class, earn a certificate, study for a bachelor’s degree and so on. Fox said the goal is to improve retention among dealership employees, and both existing and new employees will be eligible to participate (new employees are eligible after 30 days of work).
The program is similar to the one Starbucks offers its employees. The idea is to attract and retain workers in fields that see high turnover rates, while also addressing the issue many Americans face in wanting to get postsecondary education without taking on too much student loan debt. Student loan debt is rarely dischargeable in bankruptcy, so falling behind on payments not only hurts a borrower’s credit score, it also makes recovery much more difficult. (You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see how student loans would impact your credit.)
More on Student Loans:
- How Student Loans Can Impact Your Credit
- How to Pay for College Without Building a Mountain of Debt
- Strategies for Paying Off Student Loan Debt