Universities can offer promises of employment. According to an article in Inside Higher Education DePauw University has a 95% student placement rate and now is promising full job placement; even with a liberal arts degree. As a Methodist based school of 2,200 it promises that students will either get a job within 6 months or get another semester of tuition absolutely free. There are other things universities might be able to do to offer this guarantee without taking huge risks in the process. What can schools do to learn from this offer?
Offering jobs is not really the main business of universities but more along the lines of educating people to expand their knowledge base and helping them fully develop their minds so they can be highly functional people in society. The job is a result of this higher knowledge and functioning that often leads to employment and better pay. There has been a greater push in years to ensure that students that graduate are actually able to achieve full employment even though much of this is based on the attributes of both the graduate and the labor market.
To offer guarantees of employment means that universities would have to act a little more like job agents and recruiters. They will need to have a very strong job placement and career development department that actively seeks to attract businesses and promote their graduates to potential employers. There will need to have much more active engagement in the labor market beyond job postings, job search engines, and job interview skills.
The second method would be to improve corporate-university partnerships to fuel curriculum development and fill job gaps. The university would need to engage with these employers and offer them real value to develop potential employees based on their specific needs. Corporate engagement in the curriculum development and university performance would be a new way of thinking about how higher education functions and teaches. Of course there are a few detractors to this approach not discussed here.
For some universities promises are not hugely expensive if what they are offering is a free semester of school. Consider a student who graduates and then leaves to go find a job. Even a free semester may not necessarily draw them back to the school so only a small percentage of people who can't find a job would likely return to create a liability for the school. Alternatively, it is possible to offer free job finding seminars, submission of resume to job search engines, or even limited-time partnership with recruiters to help those students who are having difficulties.
The "job guarantee" can be helpful in recruiting potential students and raising the standard of the university. Because this is an important government initiative and something that impacts universities nation-wide it can be helpful to provide these types of guarantees without necessarily impacting the financial security of the school. While some students may be holding out for a high paying offers, may not want to actually get a job because they are self-employed or homemakers, or simply don't have the motivation or skills to get past the interview offering a secondary placement service could be helpful for those who want but cannot find employment.