Degree, no job? College offers money-back guarantee

Money back from college if grads don't get jobsSo let's assume for a minute that you go to college, spend thousands in tuition money, and don't get a job. You can always ask for your money back, right?

Well, that's exactly what Lansing Community College in Michigan proposes. It's a tough economy but the school has said if you enroll in its new "Get a Skill, Get a Job" program, earn a certificate in a high-growth field and don't find a job in the first year, it will pay back your money.

The president of LCC, Brent Knight, said the certificate is worth an estimated $2,400. And the idea was his brainchild, the final fruit of a program he'd been trying to implement since he gained the post in 2008.

"We're not giving them a liberal arts degree here," Knight said in an interview with Money College. "Through the 'Get a Skill, Get a Job' program, we help students understand what people can do with these skill sets we give them and how to be productive in the workplace. There are no 'cut' days during the 35-hour week and students sign a learning contract that they will uphold the expectations: acting with the proper workplace behavior, being prompt to class and completing all work given. In return, we aggressively market you."

He added: "We're trying to reach people who are unemployed and don't have hope. Michigan has one of the highest unemployment rates... We don't discriminate; the program is for people who don't think they'll get jobs." Students in the pilot program pay half of the certificate cost up front and other half through monthly installments after they find gainful employment.

One of the best aspects of the program, Knight said, is the portfolio the student receives at the end of the six-week training course. "It tells the employer what competency the student has gained through us, and I sign every letter."

There are some stipulations to participating. The certificates apply to the following fields: call-center specialists, pharmacy technicians, quality inspectors or computer machinists and all applicants must have high school degrees to participate in the program.

Why such a specialized group, you may ask? "We had a committee study the job market, and they narrowed the field from 10 jobs to four," Tess King, manager of media relations and events for Lansing Community College, said in a phone interview.

The employment process then becomes a partnership between student and college. Lansing Community College will host a job fair at the end of the program's run, but the student must also take initiative by handing out their resume and trying to garner interviews and callbacks on their own. The college offers resume workshops and coaching sessions on how to present your best side at an interview with a potential employer.

The turnout for such a novel concept wasn't daunting because no one really knew what to expect, including Knight. "We didn't know if the turnout would be just a few people or if there would be a line around the block," he said. "We've had a fine turnout, over 200 people applied. It seems to be successful."

Knight is taking the attention from outlets such as Time magazine and AOL's Daily Finance in stride. "It will cause some reaction, because news of the program has gone across the nation. It's gotten considerable interest and struck a chord. There are thousands of people across America who are dropouts in the labor market. We're trying to design a program that gives them a sense of hope and promise."

Both King and Knight emphasized that the continuation of the "Get a Skill, Get a Job" program depends on the success of this year's class, amongst other factors such as the economy, and if it remains popular. Plus it remains to be seen how those students will fare once they make those initial forays into the job marketplace.

However, it's hard to fathom how such an innovative idea could fall short with so many people watching it -- and so many students who need it.
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