Your check is in the mail: A job or your tuition back?

Community college comes with job promise (photo by Ivan Tortuga)

In a state that has struggled with some of the highest unemployment rates in country, it’s hard to imagine that a community college degree might come with the promise of a job.  Yet that’s exactly what a school in ailing Michigan has proposed, according to Time magazine.

At a time when many community colleges are oversubscribed and turning away prospective applicants, Lansing Community College wants more students. To get them, the school has guaranteed that anyone who takes a six-week course in particular subjects will get a tuition refund if they don’t get a job within a year.

The offer doesn’t stand for just anyone, though, nor does it take into account one of the most vexing issues facing community colleges — the struggle of  unprepared students to get through academic courses without first passing remedial math and English. This offer is targeted and specific to jobs the school believes are in high demand:  call-center specialists, pharmacy technicians, quality inspectors and computer machinists — jobs with pay rates ranging from $12.10 to $15.72 an hour.

Some have questioned the college’s sanity. And Time noted some interesting perspective on the idea, courtesy of Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who wasn’t terribly optimistic.

“If every community college in America did something like that, they’d all be broke,” he told Time. “They’d be refunding all their tuition.”

It will interesting to see what happens; will enrollment rise? But more importantly, will students get jobs or a check in the mail?

— Liz Willen