A Bachelor’s Degree But No Job – Shouldn’t Colleges Stand Behind their Product?

Monday, Aug. 3rd 2009 12:21 PM

We see where a New York woman has taken the extraordinary step of suing the college where she earned her bachelor’s degree. Trina Thompson, 27, recently filed a lawsuit against Monroe College seeking to recover the $70,000 she spent on tuition.

Thompson was awarded a degree last April in information technology. She is suing the school based on her failure to attain employment in her field of study, insisting that the college’s Office of Career Advancement did not provide her with the leads and career advice the school had promised.

Monroe College (photo from school website) According to her mother, Thompson is “very angry at her current situation.” Indeed, being without work and with student loans now coming due, Thompson finds herself in a real predicament.

Expected Response

Not too surprisingly, Monroe College took strong exception to being sued on such grounds. College spokesman Gary Axelbank used very strong language in responding to the claim, stating that suit was “completely without merit” and did not deserve further consideration.

We suspect that the response of many other school spokespeople would be similar if their school were to be served with such a legal claim. We also have to say that Axelbank is essentially right on legal grounds.

Certainly a college cannot be held liable simply because one of its graduates cannot find employment. Even if the student successfully completed her academic program and was awarded a diploma, a degree is not a job guarantee, certainly not in this job market.

But while Monroe’s response might be expected, it is interesting to note that there are colleges who take this matter to heart. In fact, one small college in Maine, Thomas College, has what it calls its “Thomas Promise.”

Yes, this school stands behind the education it provides and insists that it will help graduates find a job in their profession. And the school backs it up with real dollars.

The Promise

Thomas College is in Waterville, Maine, sharing the town with one of the nation’s top small liberal arts schools, Colby College. For ten years now Thomas has made a special promise to its graduates: a guaranteed job after graduation.

And we are not talking about summer fill in, part-time work. We mean a real job in the student’s chosen field of study.

Thomas College Aerial view (school website)
If a student is unable to find a job by graduation, he or she continues to meet with a college career advisor to find a permanent job. If the student does not find such a job within six months of graduation, then Thomas College will pay the first year of the student’s subsidized federal loans or until they find employment, whichever comes first.

Perhaps even more amazingly, if a graduate finds employment but does not like their chosen profession, he or she may return to Thomas to study tuition-free. The offer includes the costs of up to two additional undergraduate years to take more courses or half of the graduate courses required to complete a Master’s degree program.

The school does set forth two criteria that students must meet to be eligible. You do have to earn at least a 2.75 grade point average and you must, during your undergraduate years at school, do an internship.

Both requirements make sense. You cannot simply skate by, you need to show decent academic progress. And doing an internship just might be one of the most valuable aspects of any college program as it gives students first hand experience working in their chosen field.

Colleges Should Deliver the Goods

The promise represents an amazing commitment but clearly the school works hard on behalf of graduates. Thomas has a placement rate of better than 90% for the ten years of the program. In 2008, in a normal job market year, the school’s placement rate was 96 percent.

Of course, Maine is a bit unusual as only one in three Mainers has a college degree. So, graduates certainly have enormous advantages when it comes to applying for work.

Though the school is the only one we know of making such promise, the steps taken by Thomas are definitely more in line with what one would expect if colleges were to operate within the business sector. Standing behind a product is something we have come to expect especially if that product represents a significant purchase dollar-wise.

Monroe might be okay with its response in a legal sense. And it may be a bit unfair to pass any judgment on the suit; certainly it must be a collaborative effort between the student and the school when it comes to the job search process and we cannot fairly comment on the efforts made by the plaintiff.

But given the cost of a college education, the overall matter deserves serious thought. In fact, we think that it is time that every school stands behind the product it delivers.

27 comments on "A Bachelor’s Degree But No Job – Shouldn’t Colleges Stand Behind their Product?"

  • Wow it’s interesting to hear about Thomas College. Students would love to go to such colleges. But I think that the step is a personal choice and students should not sue colleges as the colleges aren’t bound by any agreements to ensure employment to their students.

  • I would have to empathize with this young lady because I am still going through a similar situation. I put myself through college, graduating in 2007; all while getting a divorce and raising two children. I graduated cum laude and with my bachelor degrees in three areas. And I still cannot find a career in any of my fields. I chose a job that was (and still is) a great place to work. But, now that I am part-time, and resources are limited, finding a full-time position is imperative. I must pay down my mega loans as well, and the interest is really racking up. So, I truly understand where she’s coming from!!

  • Yes, colleges should be responsible for the product it delivers. If colleges make millions and those that make them rich are left penny-less, obviously there is some issues that need attention. This is our educational system and it is corrupt. We need to sue all colleges, we need to revolt, this has to end. College should be free!

  • I really like the idea of Thomas College standing behind their “product”. Students pay big bucks to go to school and if you successfully complete the school’s program, that means you are prepared to have a job in your field and the college needs to work to help you do that.

  • This article makes Thomas seem a lot greater than it actually is. I’m a recent graduate from Thomas, and I’m still looking for work. I completed an internship, had well above the required GPA, but did not qualify for the job placement program. This is due to the fact that not a single staff member, or even my own “advisor” mentioned all of the flaming hoops you need to jump through before starting the internship. Upon finding all of this out after it was completed, it was too late.

    Also, the placement means almost nothing if you have preference on where you want to work. I’m a person who’s very close to friends and family, and I love many of Maine’s qualities, so I’m looking to work locally. I even told this to the career counselor, and the first job he linked me to was a job in Jersey, like he just completely disregarded my request. Knowing Thomas and their money-grubbing tactics anyway (I can’t recommend this school if you don’t like being robbed), I’m sure that if I had qualified for the “promise”, I wouldn’t have been given the free tuition or anything like that if I was being selective.

    For anybody who is thinking of going to Thomas after reading this article, consider yourself warned. Everything about this school, from the education, the housing, the food, and their “promise”, is simply mediocre, but the price is not. What they offer is no better than that of a state university, and the cost difference between Thomas and a university is basically paying for their wishy-washy promises that may or may not actually help you.

  • Yes I do believe colleges and universities should stand behind what they have to offer, because the bottom line is student go to universities and colleges hoping that it will make them more employable when the fact is they dont do that at all, however in the advertisement they conduct they make these claims that their students are getting their dream jobs. I recently graduated from Biotechnology the field that is booming worldwide however even 6 months after graduating there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
    I have told potential employers that i am willing to work for free at numerous circumstances only for get no response at all. If I known before hand that universities and collages are lieing to get in more students and more money i would’nt have went to a university in the first place and paid 12 grand cash for the first year and be under debt of over 30 grand now.

  • I totally agree. I graduated in 2001 with a degree in psychology. I was hoping to land a job as a social worker, but they wouldn’t hire me because I lacked experience. I could’ve gotten that experience working at an $8 an hour job for four years instead of going to college. Rather than getting a low paying job to gain experience in my field, I got temp job paying 1.5 times that much and gained experience in the insurance industry. I now make more doing this than I would’ve if I had gotten a job as a social worker. The ironic thing is that many of my co-workers don’t have degrees, but are trying to get them so they can get better paying jobs (that don’t exist). Go figure.

  • I also graduated from Thomas College. I can say that I do not regret going there. But I also have the same problem of not finding a job. I have two part-time jobs (which I am greatful for) but have been on over 20 interviews and still have no landed a job in my field. I’ve done two internships, and I felt that career services does not work hard enough to help place us in jobs. The career advisor helped create my resume but didn’t exactly help look for jobs. Since I DID find a job, although not in my field of study (Communications), I was offered to complete 6 out of 12 courses of my Master’s (MBA) for free. But, what about the other six course? I would have to pay for it and since I couldn’t find a job anyways I wasn’t going to risk being in even more debt so I turned down the offer (stupid me.) But, I loved my time at Thomas. Although I agree with number 5 (thomas student) above, I have say that EVERY college is money hungry, and I recieved WAY more financial aid at Thomas than I ever would have at a state university (trust me, I looked into it) I have been to many of my friends’ colleges and must say that the thomas campus is not too bad compared to other dorms I have seen. The campus is so small so it is easy to maintain. And it was so easy to be involved on campus. I would have never had a chance to become editor-in-chief of a large university newspaper and although the Thomas newspaper was small, it was still a great educational experience to work on it. The teachers were very friendly I thought. The education wasn’t bad, becuase my friends were learning the same things at their colleges as I was at Thomas. An english class at any college is the same as it is at Thomas. And I paid way less than some of my other friends. So if you’re thinking about Thomas, remember these rules: Don’t buy into the Job placement…they will not help you any more with finding a job than any other college. If you love a small school where you will know everyone and loved to be involved on campus then this is the school for you. But if you want a huge campus with 100 majors and clubs and frat houses then do NOT apply at Thomas. All classes are small size, which is great. The food isn’t great, but a LOT of college food isn’t great. Many colleges order from the same company. Thomas has a great history in business and technology and has built itself a good reputation but when it comes to the “newer” majors there can be some work done. The communications major wasn’t the best with the resources that Thomas had, so the school really needs to expand to accomadate all the new programs they are adding. Overall, nice school. would love to do college over again.

  • I don’t think the college should be responsible for the lack of opportunities in the work place.

    I believe this young lady should pick herself up and move forward.

    It is always a surprise to find that one door opens after another one is shut, and in many instances for the better.

    It would be interesting to know how she is doing now?

    Of course attitude and action are important factors, and if these are correct good almost always arrives.

  • I totally agree. I graduated in 2001 with a degree in psychology. I was hoping to land a job as a social worker, but they wouldn’t hire me because I lacked experience. I could’ve gotten that experience working at an $8 an hour job for four years instead of going to college. Rather than getting a low paying job to gain experience in my field, I got temp job paying 1.5 times that much and gained experience in the insurance industry. I now make more doing this than I would’ve if I had gotten a job as a social worker.
    have a nice day.

  • BA in Psychology graduating with honors May 2009—still no job in my field. My theory is that college is just a way to delay individuals from the truth that the jobs are just not there for the amount of people seeking them. A college degree was promised to give me an edge in the hiring process but the fact of the matter is that everyone is seeking an undergrad and the market is flooded. Now higher education says individuals should go back and seek their masters to get them ahead. The sad fact is that these Universities are making a ton of money while the jobs that are available are being filled, if not on a hiring freeze. These individuals are gaining valuable experience, which is what most job descriptions are asking for now and will even take as a replacement for a college education. Nothing is more frustrating than for a job description to say Bachelors degree required or 5 years of experience may substitute for degree!

  • I myself am a self taught I.T. Administrator and Application/Database Developer who earned several certifications in the field, spent many years working with upper management reading books that target my challenges and putting things into practice while learning new techniques that have been very successful and have build a portfolio over time, which college heads were not able to do. In our try before you hire session, at my company we ended up getting rid of a few college grads because their knowledge was so far behind and seem to be spoiled. I think experience and character overrides College by far, remember in college courses you just read a little try to memorize till test time pick and choose teachers who most of time has spent little time, if any, in the field they are teaching. What is the difference between this and jumping on Google and reading the latest information about a subject, then putting it into practice. People that hire based on degrees are just selfishly looking out for themselves, because perhaps they have a degree, and end up hurting themselves and their company by passing up someone with more knowledge, certifications, character and experience, remember results is why you hire, not because you might have read something in a outdated textbook. That being said, I am working on a degree although as I take the classes it is confirming what I feel to be true.

  • In my opinion, a college cannot be held liable simply because one of its graduates cannot find employment, and vice versa…..Even if the student successfully completed her academic program and was awarded a diploma, a degree is not a job guarantee, certainly not in this job market. Although degrees is a requirement in most Job’s Market.

  • It should be called a dedication degree in about 75% of the majors you can attain. Employers want to see that you were dedicated enough to stick it out for 4 years or 2 years and graduate. I have a 4 year degree and remember information from I think 1 teacher who cared about the subject matter. I think that colleges need to be better about rating the professors that are teaching. That is their part of the deal and the students are there to learn. I think it is funny that I could study a test given 4 years earlier in most classes to pass the current test I was taking. In 4 years that teacher was so lazy that he didn’t even change it up. I am paying for him/her to be the best they can in order to make me that much more marketable. Imagine if they used the same car parts from 4 years ago in the brand new models- nobody would buy. Same difference- Instead of judging the students and grading the students it should be flipped and you should judge the teachers. I should be able to see a real time student driven assessment of each teacher. Things are changing and I think you are gonna see a mad scramble by universities when the prestigiousness of the school is challenged by technology and savvy students.

  • I also earned a Bachelors in IT recently and no job only one call in one year Its really depressing. Not only that how do you keep your skills relevant when IT changes super fast.You cant keep up with it. In a couple of years there will be new grads with newer skills and who do u think will have a better chance of finding a job. So now i realize that schools and american media were lying about IT jobs they knew a large percentage of them were going to be outsourced but they still advertise these IT careers like crazy. They just wanted many foolish young students to waste their money on worthless degrees at their universities and tech schools.

  • I graduated with my BBA from UTSA 2 years ago…. i have been putting siding up over ASBESTOS on houses (on my own not currently employed by anyone) for minimum wage.
    I cant pay my college loans back because i cant even afford to feed myself (and i dont qualify for food stamps for some reason). I dont know what to do my college didnt help AT ALL in finding work./ DONT SEND YOUR KIDS TO COLLEGE PLEASE FOR THEIR OWN SAKE.

  • I came across this article as I am also fustrated with the lack of job oppurtunities. Since childhood, it has been reinforced that we should all go to college in order to get a good paying job. Listening to society,here I am with a BS in International Business and a MBA with dual concentrations in Finance and Project Management. Having applied for hundreds of jobs, I beg to ask why have I been unemployed for 17 months.

  • If a job in the field of someone’s training is not a concern of the schools, then what is there to motivate the school to teach a employable curriculum? I know a lot of ppl have a rich uncle some where who will take care of them and college is about having fun. But college’s use tax money.

    For some reason ppl want to put them on a pedestal and say to them everyone else in the world is responsible for their product, but not you! Why? What reason is there that colleges can put ppl into poverty for the rest of their lives because someone chose to better them self but the college just wanted to set them up on a spending spree? For some reason we care more about rich educators than we do about the ppl they educate.

  • Colleges and universities are big financial traps, and I know it from experience. If you really want to get a degree, make sure you already have the money to pay for it or get it while working full-time because having a degree does not equal a job at the end nor more opportunities to find one.

  • Colleges sell their products (degrees) like a salesman would sell a car. it is business like any other; with BS (really bee ass) in Business you don’t get what you pay for. So, I agree with her. It is very easy to blame the economy, but business degrees have lost their values over the years. IT’s one of those majors where you have no use of it, as much as you’ve hoped for. The sad thing is that it affects so many lives in many different ways. First of all, the loans…oh the loans..Because of them many students are not only unemployed after graduation, but they have no money, in their early to mid or later 20s to live a normal life. then no sense of accomplishment, personal gratification, larger income to be able to someday support your family, no change for the better which they worked hard for, you’re pretty much nobody for along time after you graduate with beeass in business. So anyway, you want fast results, go for a medical field. just think how much you’d be making if you’ve graduated in BS in Nursing? DON’T PICK BUSINESS MAJOR!

  • I agree with the post above, it should be called a dedication degree… Outside of the insane and complete level of research college taught how to start something that you finish. Luckily, I didn’t have to take on massive amounts of student loans.

  • I think it is ridiculous that a person can go to college for many years with a promise of better pay and a better life, when in fact they graduate with a degree where they can’t find a job and result in thousands of dollars of debt. If I would have known this was going to be my situation I would have stayed working at sears as a cashier. If I did that I would still be making the exact same amount of money I was making before I graduated without all of this debt and stress. The educational system is corrupt, as corrupt as any big business taking everyone’s money without proper results. It’s like one of those websites that promises you lots of money, but first you have to pay…then none of the money even comes after you have paid what they asked. WE HAVE TO STOP THIS CORRUPTION OF THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM, because as a person who graduated with their teaching degree, I don’t find me telling my students to graduate high school and to go to college very helpful…why would I lead them in the wrong direction? So they can be in my circumstance? Should I lie to them and tell them that college is a good route to take…I would rather tell them to join the military, find a vocational program, or just keep working at Mcdonalds for the rest of their life, they are better off that way. I can’t believe these types of things are not being made known publicly. Colleges should back up there product. Because just like any big business those who seek to buy the product they sell should at least be willing to take the product, instead of leaving it out in the cold, misusing it. The world is a cruel place…that’s the only thing I learned from going to college. I should of just joined the military and took the chances of being blown up by a grenade. At least I wouldn’t be struggling day to day dealing with unemployment, hoping that I will be able to pay my electric bill. I thought when I graduated from college I would find a good stable job where I could work and get a new car, new house, and pay off my loans, but instead I am getting deeper and deeper in debt, and I might have to move back in with my parents. Wtf is that about? Let’s change the world, one mind at a time…because if I could stand up in front of a crowd of college students right now and tell them my story, how many of those students do you think would stay in that place? I wish I would have known now back then because I would have never went to college. I would have stayed in the job sector and worked my way into a company. I know a person who is a store manager of A T & T. No college experience whatsoever, but when I apply to be a store manager somewhere they say that my experiences do not reflect what a store manager should do. Well to be honest, with my knowledge I am sure I could learn how to be a store manager efficiently in a matter of months, but nobody who hires has the confidence in my ability to learn. Did my college let me down. You damn right it did. So to all the colleges out there, you fucking suck!

  • (I apologize in advance this comment is so long, but I have no where else to go…) I’m only coming upon this article in 2015 after doing an exhaustive search on the effects of insurmountable student debt on graduates’ lives. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that our country finds itself facing some of the most volatile debt (student loans) all while the “experts” keep pronouncing college to be a financially sage investment. Money is, after all, what “it” is all about, and colleges are, thanks to their tactics, largely wealthy. The experience of countless graduates posting about being unemployed or underemployed, it seems, isn’t being taken into consideration. Big (scholastic) Business keeps promulgating the myth of the value of a degree, when more and more of us have degrees, while most jobs require experience–and very specific experience, at that, and yet no one is training us, or is willing to allow us to acquire on-the-job experience. The competition for the very few jobs available is unreasonable, and keeps getting worse. Employers admit they can’t even look at the volume of resumes they get for a single job posting. But so long as wealthy politicians’ and corporate CEOs’ children are safe, who the hell cares about the rest of us?

    I graduate from two Ivy League institutions with STEM degrees. Biggest mistake of my life. I’m heavily in debt, and cannot even get a minimum-wage lab assistantship. I’ve even offered my services FREE to labs only to be turned down. Jobs are awarded to people who KNOW those on company/university lab teams. Connections are imperative. And worse, being unemployed for more than 30 days raises a red flag with future employers. So you take whatever minimum wage job you can find unrelated to your field. But when you apply for a post in your field, you need references. And when your “current employment” is in minimum-wage retail, you can kiss a real chance at a job in your field goodbye, regardless the “expert” counsel that any job is worthwhile and better than no job.

    Before I went back to school, I interviewed heads of programs at 22 universities, asking specific questions about employment post-grad. Universities aren’t required to keep any figures to that effect, which gives administrators an incentive to tell you what they believe you want to hear–that demand in the field you’re considering is consistently growing. You do your due diligence, corroborating this online. Again, the “experts” publish articles about job growth in the field you’re considering, so you take on loans in hopes of getting a better job to pay off your debt. Two years later, everyone else has the same graduate degrees, you still have no experience (you have to keep your grades up at all costs, and working in a PhD lab is a full-time job in itself), competition is fiercer than ever, jobs have been outsourced (even in STEM), and you’re also competing with visa-holding foreign workers in the US.

    I’m not stupid enough to make this confession using my real name, but I am very close to committing suicide. My parents are already dead, and I have no kids or other human/pet responsibilities. I’ve deferred my loans so many times–and each time feel like a POS for having to admit I’m still a leech & cannot afford the INTEREST on my loans, let alone the principal. I can NEVER pay these loans off. I traded my potential for freedom for college degrees and a lifetime of slave labor. I wish I’d known about the trades. No one ever told me about them. Every single advisor I ever knew pushed me toward college. My single parent pushed me toward college. Though I didn’t go to MIT, I got accepted and attended a pre-frosh event at which one of the university administrators practically guaranteed us lifetime professional security if we successfully graduated. At 17 you’re doing exactly what “the experts” are telling you to, and what they keep feeding you for the next eight years—hope that borders on a guarantee. But there’s nothing besides debt and shame at the end of that tunnel for many of us. And now I hear it was my responsibility to know. Right.

    To the US Academy, graduates’ blood is on your hands—yours and all your minions’, in their infinitely variable guises (the loan officers and administrators, high school advisors who push-push-push college, university faculty and administrators who ply with spoken promises of a far better tomorrow post-graduation, and the online “experts” who keep parroting the hackneyed, specious line that college grads earn more (that, I’m confident, is an illusion of the social backgrounds of those who’re employed, as the immensely wealthy father of a good friend of mine pointed out when he recently commented when I shared with him about the job insecurity-college degree paradox that he’d simply “manage my children’s trust funds and get them placed at friends’ companies.” Lucky them; good that they were born to a wealthy family.).

    And judging from the vitriol of so many commenters’ judgmental assertions about indebted college graduates, things won’t get better. So since I can’t defer again, and my minimum-wage retail paycheck won’t cover my rent (four unsuccessful PhD grads sharing a two-bedroom in the only reasonably safe neighborhood we can afford–more than two hours’ drive each way from the city, where work is) and transportation bill, let alone my educational loan payments, I see no choice but to go ahead with suicide. Thankfully, there are websites that offer the resources I’ll need.

    And lest anyone think otherwise, I was a successful student with excellent test scores and letters of recommendation. Nor did I study puppeteering. All of my degrees are in STEM fields. The competition for decent wages is just too fierce. And my local community college wants over $15,000 for a 2-year certificate in welding. Yeah right.

    There’s virtually no sector of American culture I hate more than the university. College–the Ivy League–destroyed my life. But I’m poor, from a poor (and now dead) family, so my experience just doesn’t matter. Thank you, USA. I gave you my youth and the best of my mind and hands, and you gave me slavery and a death sentence.

  • EK, I hope you’re still around. Keep saying what you’re saying, it’s true and more people need to hear it.

  • The jobs outlook is beyond bleak in this country because everywhere one looks the future has been sold out in favor of greed and corporate profits. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from FIT two months ago, am an invited member of Phi Kappa Phi, and have years of experience on my two page resume because I decided to go back to school. I studied computer science and I worked in IT until the economy tanked, and now I am in the exact same position: no job, no money, no prospects, in debt, and the market is flooded with my resume. Also, as a veteran who joined the Army back in the day because of local layoffs, I’m not new to this experience. I am used to going without which many younger graduates will have a hard time with. My advice is to not give up, but absolutely something needs to be done about corporate and political establishments in the US; that includes a return for graduates from the profits of universities and colleges as well as halting the numbers of foreign invaders taking jobs away from Americans. Unfortunately the establishment is against everything being said here. As automation, robotics, and algorithms continue their phase into commoditization the future will move into more darkness. In 10 years I fear most people will be browsing threads like this one… See you in 2025 if we last that long.

  • You claim that Mainers have an easier time applying to jobs because only 1 in 3 have degrees. That is completely incorrect – what that means is those of us with degrees who can’t leave end up with the crappy retail and customer service jobs because there are very few jobs that actually hire people with degrees. I can’t find anything that will pay me more than $13 an hour… and I can’t pay my loans with that.

  • Wow reading all the blogs I seem to be in same boat. I am struggling finding a job. I got by 4 year Bachelor in Information Technology finding out that degrees are not valued as much as certifications. And I can not buy the class or voucher for certification without a job. I had very little experience but it is not enough I did temp agencies because that was only ones that would assist me but only thing is I live in small town with very little opportunity and in order for me to move I need relocation assistance cause I do not have he money to move but I am willing to. I been applying every day even on my weekends said no one wants to hire they want experience ready made people more like Robots and I do not know if my age is affecting me and lack of experience companies do not want to train or hire people over 50 there should be a law for that even though they not suppose to discriminate they still do they find loop holes. I even applied to non technical jobs still nothing I am getting more depress than motivated like I was before

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