In an attempt to increase the student retention rate, Union College is now offering free semesters for remaining in school.
The “Inaugural Class” program offers a tuition-free last semester to graduating students, beginning with this year’s enrolled freshman.
Other schools have tried freezing tuition levels or discounting the fifth year but Union College
in Kentucky may be the first school to take the step to entirely waive tuition costs in an attempt to keep their students.
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This is the result of an ongoing struggle to keep students coming back; only 50 percent of the freshman class returns for a second year, on average. Through studies, Union finds the reason for this loss inconclusive and, clearly, 50 percent is too large of a number for a college to be able to lose on a yearly basis.
There is, of course, a catch.
To qualify for the free semester, students must:
• Participate in certain “Inaugural Class” events
• Participate in one or more extracurricular activities
• Remain enrolled as a full-time student
• Complete at least 75 hours of community service
• Maintain a GPA of 3.5 or above
If students meet all requirements but their GPA falls between a 3.0-3.49, they will still have 75 percent of their final semester’s tuition paid for.
Students with GPAs falling between 2.5-2.9 will receive half of their final semester’s tuition paid.
In addition to increasing retention rates, the “Inaugural Class” program aims to engage the freshman class from the start so that each student felt connected to the college
on various levels, making the most of their time at Union.
Though part of the award is based on academics, much is based on other outside involvement, making it clear that the award is not meant to be purely academic.
Whether or not the “Inaugural Class” program is here to stay is up to the success of the first year. If it works, the increased enrollment should be enough revenue for the college to be able to finance the awards.
95 percent of Union students receive financial aid
, and many of them are first-generation college students. Looking forward to a final semester that’s already paid for would likely make a big difference in the likelihood of being able to afford to graduate.
Union hopes this will not only be a great incentive for students to stay on track towards graduation and degree programs but, also a valuable recruitment tool as well, in attracting future Union students to the college.
Would this type off incentive program make you this twice about leaving a college?