Fontbonne Makes Education Work at Chrysler Plant College, Company Make Classes Handy a Day in the Life

By Marianna Riley Of The Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

Fontbonne Makes Education Work at Chrysler Plant College, Company Make Classes Handy a Day in the Life


Marianna Riley Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Ron Raines of Imperial says he's always been a person to "try to do something a little extra."

After working his 12-hour shift as an electrician at the Chrysler plant in Fenton, Raines sticks around for four hours of classes. His tuition is paid by Chrysler as part of his benefits. He buys his own books.

Through a partnership between Chrysler Corp. and Fontbonne College in Clayton, Raines, 45, is working toward a bachelor of science degree. "You might as well get an education while you have a chance," he said. "If you don't prepare for the future, the future will pass you by. I think an active mind will always have a better chance. Challenges are really what are important, and change is part of that." Connie Selz is of a similar mind. "I told my husband, when my youngest was in first grade, I was going back to school," she said. Selz got her associate's degree, then started to work on the assembly line at Chrysler, partly because of the Fontbonne program. Selz, 37, of south St. Louis County, dreams of winning the lottery and doing nothing but going to school. As the mother of three, life can get pretty hectic. During a recent finals week, she also worked 75 hours on the assembly line at Chrysler. But she adds, "If I couldn't do this and still put my kids first, I wouldn't do it." She's managed to maintain high grades, her lowest being an A-minus in summer school. She's working on her degree in business administration and wants to go into corporate accounting. Although Selz has often wished she hadn't delayed her education, she doesn't waste time with regrets. After she gets her bachelor's degree, Selz plans to continue for another 2 1/2 or three years for her master's degree. She's particularly proud that she hasn't missed a day of work since she began this grueling schedule. "The Fontbonne program is wonderful," she said. "I'm always surprised that more people don't take advantage of it." About 140 workers have received college degrees since the program started in 1987, but that's only a fraction of those who have taken classes over the years, said Julie Loyet, director of the Chrysler campus. She said about 80 of Chrysler's nearly 8,000 employees are taking classes this semester. Most of the larger Chrysler plants have similar affiliations, said Dan Moore, a spokesman for Chrysler in Detroit. Russell Signorino, a labor market analyst for the St. Louis County Economic Council, says on-site training will be increasing as the need for upgrading skills increases. In addition, colleges and universities are reaching out to serve older students as competition increases and demographics change, he said. The auto industry has been a major player in this trend, through tuition assistance programs run jointly by the United Auto Workers and the auto companies. Individual GM plants hold contracts with local colleges that offer a variety of classes at skills centers within each plant. …

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