NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pay for Only Four Years of College. Guaranteed.

September 27, 2011

More than a dozen colleges across the United States now offer a new form of protection against rising tuition costs: four-year degree guarantees.  Representatives of these colleges are keen to explain that, should a mistake be made by the school that delays the graduation of a student, the additional tuition costs will be covered by the college.  Such mistakes can include a required class not being made available to a student or poor counseling by school advisors, among other things, says the New York Times.

Such guarantees work as a marketing tool, giving colleges a way to ease parents' fears that their children might enjoy college enough to stick around for five or six costly years.  And they help to focus attention on the task at hand: graduating in four years.

  • While about 15 schools have implemented the new program, many only did so within the past three years.
  • Therefore, it is difficult to gauge the results in terms of the impact on average number of years to graduate.
  • However, those schools that do offer the program emphasize its advantages: while schools like the University of the Pacific (which does use the program) usually have to cover costs for two students per year, the program attracts many more to the school than would otherwise apply.
  • These additional students' tuition money more than compensates the school for the program's expenditures, making it viable in the long term.

Source: Alan Schwarz, "Pay for Only 4 Years of College. Guaranteed," New York Times, September 14, 2011.

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