Scholarships and tuition subsidies are a popular way to attract students to college, but critics have pointed out that they can also backfire. Some students drop out after the financial aid is exhausted, leaving them without a degree—and the money is essentially wasted.
So one college decided to do things a little differently. They took a note from Inside Higher Ed. In a column by writer Matt Reed, he suggested a simple solution: Give students incentive to stay by making the second year free, not the first.
Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown announced a plan to cover the first year of community college. In his column, Reed countered with the idea that a “buy a year, get one free” model would be more effective—essentially creating a carrot on a stick model that would hopefully increase retention rates.
“We were trying to find ways for students to take classes in the summer for free and researching how to incentivize students,” said Ryan McCall, Marion Tech’s president. “We’d been thinking about it and talking about it and then I read Matt’s article. Do we stick with the summer idea or do we try to go further and expand it to the idea of providing students with a second year free after they’ve proven they want to do the work and be here?”
The program, dubbed the ‘Get to Next Scholars’ program, means that incoming Marion Tech students will receive a tuition-free second year — or 35 credit hours free — if they complete at least 30 hours of college-level courses in the first year. Students are also required to earn at least a 2.5 grade point average.
For his part, Reed is thrilled his idea has been implemented. “It’s one thing to jump into college and have the flush of excitement and the novelty, but after the novelty wears off, it’s a lot of work,” Reed said. “Now that the novelty has worn off, we’ll help you finish.”