Fiat Chrysler is adopting a similar strategy as Starbucks, giving free college tuition to 118,000 employees at Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Fiat dealerships around the United States. The new program is open to both full- and part-time employees, as long as they’ve been working at a dealer for 30 days or more.
There is a catch. Apparently, Fiat Chrysler will only pay to send dealership employees to Strayer University, which is a for-profit school. Taking classes through the Internet is an option, or the school has 77 campuses spread around the country.
First up for the new college tuition program are 356 dealers in Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Employees will be able to begin singing up this upcoming Monday. Later in the year, Fiat Chrysler plans to take the program live throughout the United States.
Employee retention is a constant battle at many car dealers. According to FCA, turnover at its dealers is somewhere around 45 to 60 percent. With the new program, the hope is that people will stick around longer as they feel that their employment is providing a benefit they might not get elsewhere. The ultimate goal, according to an interview Fortune did with the president and CEO of the Chrysler brand, is “to take customer service to the next level.”
Apparently, dealerships will have to buy into the new college tuition program. They will be required to pay an unspecified amount of money to FCA so employees are eligible to enroll, using it as a tool to recruit and retain talent. The average amount a bachelor’s degree through Strayer University costs is about $42,000.
It’s possible that other automakers in the United States could follow suit and start helping workers at dealerships pay for higher education. Such benefits are especially attractive to Millennials, a group that many in the automotive industry seem to be mystified by.