The program is being offered through Strayer University, a 120-year-old, Virginia-based institution specializing in adult education, with 80 campuses in 24 U.S. states. It offers associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees, with both online and traditional programs.
"Many of our dealers have expressed concern over the availability of talent to fill open positions due to business growth and turnover in their stores, especially in metro markets," said Al Gardner, head of dealer network development and president & CEO of the Chrysler Brand, in a statement. "Our collaboration with Strayer demonstrates our focus on building our dealers' hard-working employees' skillsets to help them perform at an optimal level while also investing in their long-term success."
According to Chrysler, courses available to dealership employees will include business administration, information systems and a number of other areas of study, while online access will allow the flexibility for students to fit coursework into their work schedules.
Starbucks made headlines last month when it announced that it was expanding its college tuition benefit to include a full four-year education through Arizona State University's online program. But unlike the Starbucks program, in which students have to pay tuition and then get reimbursed, FCA plans to cover the tuition up front.
Business site Fortune notes that, following the recession, the number of employers offering tuition benefits dropped by 16 percent from 2009-'12. But in the past 12 months, with the recovering economy and a tightening labor market, more companies are beginning to offer such plans.
"Dealers tell us that education is a benefit frequently requested by their employees," Gardner said. "With the increasing cost of a college education, offering free college degrees without the burden of debt presents a significant value that we are pleased to provide and that differentiates us from our competitors. It will certainly help us attract and retain strong talent."
Edmunds says: Employees are sure to appreciate this added benefit, which should also help Fiat-Chrysler dealerships to attract high-performing talent — and even more car shoppers.