Colleges Get Creative with Guarantees for New Applicants
by Agnes Jasinski
You may remember a recent initiative begun by Lansing Community College that guaranteed students jobs post-graduation if they completed programs in high-demand fields at the school. The idea of offering incoming freshmen guarantees in exchange for their enrollment in a particular school has caught on, with more schools, especially those with low enrollments, providing students with promises of clearer career paths and timely graduations.
Albion College, also in Michigan, recently unveiled a new program called “The Albion Advantage,” which aims to get students career-ready as soon as they step onto the school’s campus. Students will now be provided with a higher degree of professional services early on, with career planning weaved into the private liberal arts school’s curriculum and assessments that analyze students’ strengths and weaknesses to provide them with a better idea of which careers they would be most successful in. The biggest change, however, is the school’s new post-graduation guarantee. Students who graduate with a 3.0 GPA but are unable to find jobs in their major areas after they graduate are eligible to receive assistance from the school in the form of internships and research assistant opportunities on and off campus, more professional development services until they land jobs, and a free, noncredit semester at Albion.
A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education took a look at the Albion’s program and the reasoning behind it. Administrators at the school say the college decided something had to be done after the previous year’s enrollment numbers came in. Albion had planned to enroll 475 to 500 new students; 434 freshmen enrolled instead. The cost of attending the school (about $40,000 per year) may have been a factor in the decrease in applicants, as students are looking for better deals elsewhere through state colleges or vocational schools where they may learn a skill or trade and enter the workforce. Michigan is also the state with the highest unemployment rates in the country.
Elsewhere, colleges are using different guarantees to get students interested in their schools. The University of Maine at Farmington introduced the "Farmington in Four" program earlier this year. That program promises incoming freshmen that if they don’t graduate from the school within four years, they will be able to complete their remaining coursework free of charge. (According to the U.S. Department of Education, a little more than half of all students at four-year colleges graduate within six years. Private colleges have the highest graduation rates, according to U.S. News and World Report’s recent rankings of the “best colleges” in the country.)