Nearly 20 years ago, when I was preparing to graduate from high school, college was not a choice; it was an expectation. Time and time again, it was stressed that without a degree, my classmates and I would find ourselves flipping burgers for life.
Over the years, as student debt has climbed and some graduates find they aren’t getting their dream jobs, the tide seems to have turned. Today, we have former Secretary of Education William Bennett questioning the value of four-year degrees, while others are outright dismissing the importance of all formal higher education.
Perhaps to get students (and their checkbook-holding parents) back on board, some colleges and universities are now guaranteeing their degrees will translate into jobs after graduation.
We’ll take a look at six institutions with job placement guarantees, but first, check out this video about where to find unusual scholarships.
1. Manchester University
Located in North Manchester, Ind., this institution was founded by the United Brethren Church in 1860 as a seminary. More than 150 years and a couple of name changes later, the school became Manchester University in 2012. The university (formerly known as Manchester College) has 60 fields of study for undergraduates and has maintained an employment guarantee since 1995.
The guarantee: Students will have a job or be enrolled in a graduate degree program within six months of graduation, or they can return to the university for a tuition-free year of additional classes.
The fine print: To be eligible, students must not only be aggressively seeking employment, but they better have been involved while on campus. The guarantee applies only to those who have extensive volunteer service or extracurricular involvement while enrolled. In addition, students must have completed a professional internship or had on-campus employment for at least two semesters. Finally, students hoping to cash in on the guarantee must have a letter of recommendation from an adviser and proof that they took full advantage of services provided by the Office of Career Services.
2. Misericordia University
In 1999, Misericordia University launched its Guaranteed Placement Program. The 90-year-old institution was founded by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy in Luzerne County and later moved to Dallas, Pa. Its more than 3,000 students can choose from 34 degree programs offered by the Arts and Sciences, Health Sciences, and Professional Studies and Social Sciences colleges within the university.
The guarantee: The Guaranteed Placement Program is a four-year plan in which students learn career development and job-seeking skills while at Misericordia University. Students who fully participate and do not receive a job offer or acceptance into a graduate program within six months of graduation will be offered a paid internship by the university in their chosen field.
The fine print: The program is intense with workshop and activity attendance required every semester. Miss one – or even be late – and you could find yourself booted from the program. In addition, the program is only open to students who enter the university as freshmen and complete their bachelor’s degree within four years.
3. Capitol College
In Laurel, Md., Capitol College has 12 areas of study for undergraduate students. The school caters to technology students, and its degrees are primarily a mix of computer science and engineering. That’s fitting for a school that began its existence as the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute in 1927.
The guarantee: Known as the Capitol College Commitment, it guarantees a job with a competitive salary within 90 days of commencement. Otherwise, the school will provide another 36 credits tuition-free, enough to conceivably earn a second bachelor’s degree.
The fine print: Students must complete at least 40 credits, including 20 from their major area, at Capitol College. In addition, they must maintain a cumulative 2.75 GPA, maintain full-time student status and graduate with a bachelor of science degree. As with Manchester University, students must be an active participant in a campus organization. What’s more, they need to attend an annual Career Day, complete a college sponsored co-op or internship, attend three career seminars, and actively work with the school’s career services department as part of a good-faith effort to find employment.
4. Thomas College
The Thomas College Guaranteed Job Program has been around since 1999, but it was revamped last year. The private school was founded as Kiest Business College in 1894. Today’s campus in Waterville, Maine, hosts students who are planning careers in business, technology and education.
The guarantee: The program promises students will have or be offered a job within six months of graduation. If that doesn’t happen, the college will either make standard, monthly payments on a student’s loans for up to one year or allow them to enroll tuition-free in up to six evening classes that can be applied toward a master’s degree.
The fine print: There is a list of 10 criteria students must meet to be eligible for the Guaranteed Job Program. These include completing an internship, attending two Career Services events each year while enrolled and completing at least two leadership events. In addition, students need a 3.0 cumulative GPA and 10 hours of community service completed each year. Beyond that, students must make an appointment with Career Services within 30 days of graduation if they are not employed full time, and subsequent monthly meetings must be scheduled with the office.
5. Westwood College
While most of the schools offering a job guarantee are smaller institutions with a single location, Westwood College maintains 14 campuses in five states. In addition, it offers online degree programs in five different areas, such as technology, health care and business. In 2011, Westwood College launched its Employment Pledge for both on-campus and online students.
The guarantee: If a student does not find employment within six months of graduation, Westwood College will help pay their bills, up to $500 per month, for up to six months.
The fine print: The Westwood Employment Pledge seems to have fewer hoops to jump through than the programs offered at other institutions. Students need to be continuously enrolled, sign a commitment document and follow the student code of conduct. Otherwise, the only other requirement appears to be weekly check-in meetings or phone calls to the career services department upon graduation.
6. Davenport University
Davenport University is one of the most recent entries to the world of the job guarantees. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, it will pilot its employment guarantee program. For now, only accounting majors are eligible, but the school’s Vision 2015 strategic plan calls for the employment guarantee to eventually be offered to all students enrolled on its 12 Michigan campuses.
The guarantee: Students who don’t have a job within six months of graduation may be entitled to up to three semesters of undergraduate courses tuition-free.
The fine print: As mentioned above, only accounting majors are eligible right now. Students must have a final GPA of 3.0, complete their degree program within six years and be in good financial standing with the school. Davenport University also requires that students complete an internship or work/study arrangement, significantly participate in an extracurricular activity for four semesters and have a documented job search that begins no later than two semesters prior to graduation.
What do you think? Does a job guarantee make you more inclined to want a degree? Or do you think it’s a marketing gimmick filled with loopholes? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.