In the consumer world, “satisfaction guaranteed or your money back” is a common promise. However, this guarantee has never crossed into the academic realm until recently. Michigan’s Lansing Community College is offering a guarantee that is virtually unprecedented in the world of higher education: get a job or your money back.
Program Seeks to Encourage Prospective Students
According to Lansing Community College president Brent Knight, the guarantee is meant to alleviate the apprehension some may feel about returning to school in a tough economy. Prospective students may wonder whether investing time and money in a new degree or further job training is worthwhile if their efforts will not translate into increased job prospects upon graduation.
Knight acknowledged as the Lansing State Journal reports, that “Many people are discouraged in job seeking. Why spend money, take time to learn when you may not get a job?”
The new program, called “Get a Skill, Get a Job or Your Money Back,” aims to assuage some of these fears. It promises students who enroll in certain occupational training programs that if they are not able to find a job in the field within one year of graduation, Lansing Community College will refund their tuition money.
This video offers an overview of Lansing Community College.
The Fine Print
The program covers four short-term training programs for specific occupations that are in high demand: pharmacy technicians, customer service call center workers, certified quality inspectors, and home technology integration technicians.
The programs will each last four to six weeks. Students who opt into the programs will need to fulfill certain requirements:
- Sign a “learning contract” agreeing to attend all of their classes and complete all coursework
- Fulfill the terms of the contract by attending all classes and completing all coursework
- Participate in a job-readiness workshop that will help students prepare resumes and cover letters, as well as sharpen their abilities to answer questions in job interviews
- Make a “good faith effort” to find a job after completing the training program
Upon completion, students will receive a certificate and a portfolio verifying their competencies in the skill areas needed for the occupation, according to Lansing Community College’s website.
The programs will be limited in size to 12 to 15 participants per program. The college website indicates that they expect admission into the programs to be “highly competitive,” and that they will pre-screen applicants “to ensure the highest probability of their success and future employment.”
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More Details to Come
The program is still awaiting full approval from the college’s board of directors. If approved, the college will begin accepting applications in March and will conduct interviews in April. The training programs are scheduled to begin in May 2010.
Will Other Colleges Follow Suit?
Guarantees like the ones offered by Lansing Community College are very rare in the world of higher education. They are most likely to be found in specific training programs for in-demand occupations.
For example, in 2008, General Electric pledged to hire all graduates of the Wind Energy Technician Program at New Mexico’s Mesalands Community College for the next three years, as Community College Times reported.
For most degree programs at community colleges and four-year universities, however, money-back guarantees do not seem likely to be coming any time soon. In 2009, as CNN reported, a graduate of New York’s Monroe College made headlines when she sued her alma mater over her failure to find a job within three months of graduating with a Business Administration degree. Although an official ruling on the case has not been reported, the general reaction from the mainstream media and bloggers alike was that it was unrealistic for a new graduate to expect to be guaranteed a job in this tough economy.
When asked by the Long Island Press to give his response to Trina Thompson’s case, Brian Krueger, author of the book College Grad Job Hunter, wrote, “I strongly disagree that going to colleges gives you any guarantee of getting a job. Going to college guarantees you an education. The college can then assist you in getting a job. But it is your job to find the job—that takes additional work above and beyond what any college will provide (or guarantee).”
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Students, Krueger writes, should use the resources that are available at their colleges to help them find jobs, but should not expect that a diploma alone will automatically entitle them to a job offer.
Only time will tell whether other community colleges will follow Lansing’s lead and begin to offer similar “money-back guarantees” of their own.
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