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For-Profit College: We’ll Pay You to Hire Our Graduates

One California for-profit college has found a way to improve its job placement rate and, it says, help the local job market—by offering to pay companies up to $2,000 for hiring one of its graduates.

The Smart Hire Employer Incentive Program launched by the University of Antelope Valley in partnership with the city of Lancaster, Calif., is only valid for graduates hired in the field they studied and available only in September, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The school’s programs of study include massage therapy, culinary arts, and medical-related fields.

For-profit institutions have faced increased pressure to prove that their graduates are well-trained and able to secure employment after the Department of Education introduced a less-than-perfect gainful employment rule to hold such colleges accountable. The rule comes in response to widespread and well-documented cases of malpractice in the for-profit industry, which has garnered a reputation for leaving students poorly equipped for the workforce and saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

(Infographic: An Education in For-Profit Education)

A press release detailing the offer calls it an “economic stimulus initiative” and notes that the university “completes pre-screening work, allowing the employer to save time, money and effort while finding the right candidate for their business.”

Lancaster's Mayor R. Rex Parris said the streamlined process is “great incentive enough” for companies and the $2,000 perk of hiring a graduate is “simply icing on the cake.”

One of the school’s co-founders Marco Johnson tells the LA Times his motive is to help stimulate the local economy: “A lot of companies and employers are on the fence about hiring someone new, and this could be the incentive they need to do it.”

Regardless of how dire the local economy is—area unemployment has hovered around 15 percent since early 2009—there’s no quick-fix to an inferior education. The University of Antelope Valley may be a strong training ground that doesn’t ruin its students’ lives like some for-profit colleges have, but such a move in an industry laden with malpractice and deceptive tactics to improve student data could become a troubling trend.

If used at the wrong institution, an offer like the one from University of Antelope Valley might not benefit students, who may still be graduating without the skills necessary to succeed, nor employers, who may simply end up with sub-par staffers.

In that case, paying businesses (and therefore, increasing job placement data) isn’t doing anyone justice—except, of course, the for-profit university.

Brian Stewart is the Communications Director at Generation Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @brianstewart.

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