I've got to hand it to Seton Hall University. It has figured out a way to gain some positive headlines, enhance the quality of its student body and demonstrate that maybe the cost of attending college doesn't have to rise every blessed year.
Here's the story. If candidates for admission to the Hall have a combined 1200 on the SAT in math and verbal and graduate in the top 10 percent of their class, they will be eligible to pay about $10,000 in tuition -- in direct competition with the cost of Rutgers -- at a savings of $21,000 over the usual Seton Hall tuition. If the student maintains a 3.0 average each year, that reduced rate will remain in effect throughout their time at SHU.
My questions: if it is that easy to lower tuition, why don't richer schools do it? And, a related question, will other students' fees go up to subsidize this new program?
But wait, here's another innovative concept, at Randolph-Macon College. Randy Mac now offers a guarantee of graduation in four years. Here are the stipulations: the student has to keep up with coursework, meet with advisers (and not change their major senior year, or take a year off, etc.) If so, the college guarantees graduation in four years -- and if a needed course isn't available or bad advice is given, the school will foot the bill for the courses needed to graduate.
This is a big deal, since today only 80% of students in private colleges graduate in four years; the number goes down to 50% for public colleges. So when the four years are exceeded, it's that much more for tuition, that much more in loans.
There is a sense of grandstanding about both schools' actions -- but maybe we need more gestures of this sort to get us all thinking about how this college cost thing might be dealt with more creatively.