New Hampshire university offers grads employment 'guarantee'

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CONCORD, N.H. >> A small Catholic university in southern New Hampshire is becoming the latest college to offer a money-back guarantee of sorts to its students.

Rivier University, which has a total student population of about 2,600 in Nashua, has created an "Employment Promise Program" that will be available to full-time undergraduates starting with the class of 2020. Students are guaranteed to land a job within nine months of graduation, or the school will either pay their federally subsidized students loans for up to a year or enroll them in up to six master's degree courses tuition-free.

"We want to send a message that we recruit not just for the first year, but we're a partner throughout an educational experience with students," university president Sister Paula Marie Buley said.

"The Rivier Employment Promise is really the university's commitment to partner with students in the classroom, on campus, in the community and ultimately, a career," she said.

The university typically has about 200 incoming freshman each year, and Buley expects most of them to participate in the program. Students must maintain a 3.0 minimum grade point average and participate in a variety of activities, including career counseling, community service and internships. In return, the university will provide specialized academic and career action plans designed to enhance a student's employability.

"We're focusing on the goal of an undergraduate education — the academic rigor, the values, the skill set, the ability to work with other people, to communicate ideas — and we give students ways to practice all their skills while they're still at the university," Buley said.

While the Rivier program is the first of its kind in New Hampshire, colleges and universities around the country offer similar deals. In Waterville, Maine, Thomas College pays federal student loans for up to a year or offers free master's degree courses to students who follow certain steps as undergraduates and don't get jobs related to their majors within six months of graduation.

Capitol College in Laurel, Maryland, guarantees qualified graduates a job with a competitive salary within 90 days of graduation or the school will provide up to 36 additional undergraduate credits. And Adrian College in Michigan pays some or all student loan payments until graduates make $37,000 a year.

When the latter program was launched in 2014, college officials framed it as a solution to skyrocketing tuition costs and student loan defaults. At Rivier, where the annual undergraduate tuition is $28,800, Buley said the program also is aimed at reassuring parents that the significant cost is worth it.

"We know that they are very interested in the career preparation and the employability of their students in all academic disciplines," she said. "I think you see even more today that parents and students are in partnership in selecting an institution, and this really speaks to the interests of both parents and students."

For Rivier University class of 2014, 95 percent were either employed, in graduate school or in the military six months after graduation, she said.

Courtney Campbell, 17, of Stoughton, Massachusetts, was recently accepted to Rivier and is deciding between the Nashua school and one other college. After hearing about the new program Tuesday from her guidance counselor, she said she's definitely leaning toward Rivier.

"It really helps me feel less nervous about getting a job," said Campbell, who plans to study early childhood education.


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