A Money-Back Guarantee on Education? Yup.

A Money-Back Guarantee on Education? Yup.
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It has long been both assumed and accepted that, in education, you get out what you put in. That you can, for example, learn a PhD’s worth of knowledge and understanding with a little more than a free local library card. Just like – on the other side of the coin – accruing a lifetime of debt for an Ivy-league education doesn’t guarantee you learned anything whatsoever.

That last part is especially true.

In post-secondary settings, there are plenty of book companies, study tool providers, career courses, colleges and programs that will be delighted to take your money and rely on the adage that what you actually learn is up to you. That, despite your investment, they owe you nothing in terms of results.

Can you even imagine, for example, a textbook company offering to refund your money if you didn’t pass the class? Or a college refunding your tuition if you didn’t pass your astronomy exam? Or a professor saying, “I’ll tell you what, if you don’t get this, don’t pay me.”

Snowballs have better odds in Satan’s living room.

That’s why it caught my eye that HLT – a company that makes study tools for some pretty big tests such as certification exams for CPAs, nurses and would-be dentists – will actually give your money back if you use one of their guaranteed test preparation tools and don’t pass the test.

Actually, they will give you double your money back if you don’t pass.

For example, they guarantee the apps they make for nursing students, which are designed to help students prepare for the NCLEX RN exam and other certification tests. And it has not just a “14-day, money-back guarantee” based on satisfaction but a “200% money-back guarantee” which says simply, “If you attend an accredited U.S. nursing school and buy the full version of our app, we will double your money back if you fail your nursing exam.”

Again, imagine if a textbook company said that – “If you buy our philosophy book and you don’t get at least a B in the class, we’ll essentially pay you.”

Well, I can’t imagine it because it goes against a bedrock premise of education – that those who provide access to education promise nothing. That success is entirely on you.

In fact, it used to be that textbook companies in particular not only didn’t even imply that you’d actually learn anything with their books, they didn’t even offer a satisfaction guarantee. They used to take the approach that, even if their product was entirely useless, once you left the bookstore with it, you owned it. Period.

And colleges are the same way – past the drop/add date you own it, regardless of the outcome. At least in college classes, there is a try-before-you-buy possibility. Most of the time.

In fact, the very idea of guaranteeing an education outcome is so heretical that I had to ask HLT how and why that do it.

“We have great products and we know they work,” Adam Keune, the company Co-Founder and Chief Business Development Officer told me. “And we feel like, if you’re investing in your education and are motivated enough to use our products, we’re willing to bet on your success. For us, the win is when students meet their goals. And to be honest, our success rates are so high, we don’t issue a ton of refunds.”

If you’re in the camp that believes that the purpose of education is ultimate utility – that an education investment should pay career dividends – you have to love HLT’s approach.

And whatever other education camps you may be in, you probably hope that the HLT philosophy catches on elsewhere. It won’t be possible or appropriate in all cases, sure. But there many – probably too many – education providers and enablers in the marketplace that at least strongly imply a link between career outputs and education inputs. Getting some market pressure on them to stand behind their claims can only be good for students, potential employers and, in the long run, the education providers themselves.

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