International News

United States - Education with guarantees chorus

Students at the 27 public colleges of applied technology in the US state of Tennessee earn qualifications in such complex fields as computer-aided design, information technology, advanced manufacturing and aviation maintenance.

This autumn onwards, they and their employers will get something else, too: a warranty. If graduates fail state or national licensing exams in their professions within one year, they will be retrained at no charge.

The idea is “to stand behind our graduates,” says Carol Puryear, vice chancellor for economic and community development for the Tennessee Board of Regents. “We want to make sure that industry is satisfied and our students are satisfied.”

The move is part of a growing debate in the US over whether higher education institutions, like other businesses, should offer such guarantees — especially considering the high cost of tuition which students often pay for through loans. Many new players in the sector, such as fast-paced for-profit computer coding schools and the online course provider Udacity, are promising all or some of their students their money back if they don’t get jobs.
This has prompted a handful of traditional universities to offer similar guarantees. Several public universities in New York will let students finish their degrees for free if it takes them longer than four years, for instance. Private Davenport University, in Michigan, will provide additional education at no cost to students who haven’t secured jobs within six months of graduation.

But there’s a long list of requirements and restrictions: Davenport, for instance, makes its guarantee to students in only three high-demand fields. Other institutions mandate that students maintain certain grade point averages and take minimum number of courses.

Whatever the impact, lawmakers are now joining a chorus of students, parents and consumer advocates calling for forcing universities to take on a greater stake in their students’ success, a proposition which would shake up India’s colleges and universities given to recklessly dispensing degrees and certificates. 

With more than 43 percent of US students failing to graduate within even six years, and a record 8.1 million now in default on the money that they have borrowed to pay tuition fees, there’s a bipartisan effort in Congress to make colleges reimburse a share of the loans that their future students cannot. This would make the institutions “pay attention to rising costs and failing students” says Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat senator and co-sponsor of the proposed legislation.