Joining the likes of Starbucks and McDonald's, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that it is going to offer free college tuition to employees at Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Fiat dealerships across the country. Over 118,000 employees can take classes through Strayer University, a private, for-profit college. Chrysler employees can take their classes online or attend classes at one of Strayer's brick-and-mortar campus locations. Employees at dealerships in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee can already enroll in this new program, and the program will continue to roll out in phases until all of the US dealerships are included.

By giving their employees this opportunity to pursue their postsecondary education for free, Chrysler aims to improve employee satisfaction and retention and attract motivated and driven talent, putting them at a competitive advantage.1

Free Tuition Trend

The popularity better tuition benefits at major companies is on the rise. Starbucks provides a free online college education to its 135,000 US employees through a partnership with Arizona State University (ASU).2 Earlier this year, McDonald's expanded their employee benefits to help pay college tuition for workers at all of its 14,300 stores in the US.3 More recently, McDonald's also launched a small program through which employees can learn web development or UX design through General Assembly. McDonald's not only pays for the courses, but also provides a stipend for employees during their time in the program.

Companies are embracing this model because they recognize that it will strengthen the relationship between employer and employee. As the Chairman and Chief Executive of Starbucks Howard D. Schultz said about its program, "I believe it will lower attrition, it'll increase performance, it'll attract and retain better people."2 Particularly in the service industry, where turnover can be high and customer service is paramount, it's valuable for employees to feel a strong connection to their employer. Happy employees who feel like they are a valuable part of the organization are less likely to leave and more likely to focus on creating a positive experience for the customer.

Moving Forward

So far, most of the major companies providing increased generous education benefits are focusing on a college education. Organizations can take one step back and start offering programs through which their hourly employees can earn their high school diploma. This kind of program would appeal to a lot of people - over 1 million high school students drop out annually in the US.4 Companies are looking for qualified and committed workers, and they have the opportunity to create them in house through tuition assistance and educational support, starting with high school.

Chrysler is doing a great job, creating the opportunity for their workers to continue learning. Now let's start pushing for employers to expand past a college education and give their employees the opportunity to earn their high school diploma.

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Resources: Photo; (1) Chrysler Is Giving Its Dealership Workers Free College Tuition (2) Starbucks to Provide Free College Education to Thousands of Workers (3) Starbucks will now cover 4 years of college tuition for employees, up from 2 (4) America's Promise: Cities in Crisis