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Colleges Turn to Tuition Freebies to Entice Students Back

Schools are turning to free education enticements to persuade their students to forego a pandemic "gap year" and continue with plans to get college degrees. While the offers so far are coming from private, nonprofit colleges, at least one community college also is offering free tuition.

St. Norbert College, a private nonprofit in De Pere, WI, has promised a free "ninth-semester." The free tuition offer is available to any current or newly admitted undergraduate enrolled through this fall and next spring. Students have to commit to enrolling for at least 12 credits in each semester and maintain a 2.0 cumulative grade point average.

As the college explained on its website, "We want to make sure that all our students, over the course of their time at SNC, can attain the complete and fully rounded experience of college life in community that we have always been so proud to offer. It's an experience that we hope will include not only a rich experience of academic instruction but also a full co-curricular life, along with high-impact, highly enriching and highly enjoyable opportunities like study abroad and athletics competition."

Pacific Lutheran University, a private nonprofit in Tacoma, WA, is offering a "PLUS Year" to all undergraduate students enrolled full time for the 2020-2021 academic year. To obtain the extra year at PLU, students may choose to attend school now in-person, online or through blended options. This would be an additional year after their currently scheduled degree completion date.

As PLU President Allan Belton noted on the university website, students may choose to "take advantage of their PLUS year in many different ways. That could mean "an extra semester on the field or performing with their music ensemble," choosing to "study away" or earn an additional major or minor "or engage in additional research with a favorite faculty member."

Belton said that he also hopes the PLUS year will allow students the flexibility "to take a lighter course load during the pandemic and focus on the health and well-being of themselves and those around them."

That's similar to what Beloit College, a private nonprofit in Beloit, WI, is offering: a ninth and 10th semester tuition-free to help students enrolled full-time during 2020-2021 to finish or supplement their degree. According to the college, students can choose to take an additional semester, which may be either in the fall or the spring, or an entire academic year. The semester or year needs to start in the academic year immediately following the students' eighth semester.

Belhaven University, a private nonprofit in Jackson, MS, has promised full tuition scholarships for any of its online master's degrees to incoming freshmen, transfers and returning students who enroll for the fall semester's traditional campus program. To take advantage of the master's degree offer, students must also stay enrolled every semester as a full-time, traditional-campus student until they graduate from the university.

Also, for Mississippi students who decide to stay closer to home and enroll, Belhaven is guaranteeing a minimum scholarship of $12,500 to the Mississippi class of 2020 high school graduates and community college transfers.

Baltimore City Community College recently announced that it would give free tuition for the upcoming semester to students just starting, to those transferring from a four-year institution or picking up an education for a job change. Fall 2020 courses are being offered in two remote formats: in real-time or "face to face," in which students meet with a "live" instructor via Zoom or Microsoft Teams at a scheduled time; and "online," giving students flexibility about when they complete their assignments.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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