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January 17, 2013 11:00 AM The Free Semester Solution

By Daniel Luzer

UnionCollege

In an effort to encourage its students to stay around until graduation Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky, will apparently offer students free tuition their last semester of their senior years.

According to an article by Caralee Adams at Education Week:

To qualify for a tuition-free spring semester of their senior year, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA, get involved in one campus activity, and donate 75 hours of their time to community service.
Union, like many colleges, is looking for ways to improve retention, which has not risen along with enrollment. Only about half of the students in a typical Union freshman class, return for a second year.

It’s certainly a novel idea, but this does suggest that if the college can afford to offer a semester for free, in exchange for what strikes me as pretty minimum accomplishments, it’s probably just charging more tuition than it really needs to. You’re a nonprofit institution; why are you offering coupons?

The average net price of a Union education is $15,370 a year. That’s about $2,000 more than the average net price for a private college. Maybe that’s why half of Union freshmen don’t stick around for a second year. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer