NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Howard University is going to pay its students to graduate in four years.
The school says it will cover 50% of the cost of a student’s final semester if they graduate early or on time, starting next year. A single semester’s sticker price is $11,900, so that would be a savings of about $6,000 for anyone paying full price.
And if the program motivates students to finish their coursework faster and enter the workforce sooner than they would have otherwise, they’ll actually save even more, said Derek Kindle, Howard’s executive director of student financial services.
About 46% of Howard University students graduate in four years, which is higher than the national average of 39%.
Howard’s tuition rebate program is “relatively uncommon,” said Robert Kelchen, an education professor at Seton Hall University.
At public colleges in Texas, students earn a $1,000 rebate if they finish on time. And some schools, such as Eastern Illinois University, offer a guaranteed tuition rate for four years. After that, the cost for any additional credits would go up.
But tuition rebates have been largely untested.
Finishing school in four years is sometimes difficult, and more than half of students across the country don’t do it. As tuition prices keep climbing, many students require lighter schedules so that they can also hold a job while going to school.
The rebate incentive is just one way Howard is trying to keep school affordable for students.
It is also freezing tuition next year, charging undergraduates the same $22,737 it did this year. That’s significantly less than the average for private, four-year colleges, which topped $31,000 last year, according to The College Board.
Howard already offers grants to the highest-need sophomores, juniors and seniors who are on track to graduate on time. It awarded more than $2 million through this program in the fall, its inaugural year. It also increased the number of credits that student can take in a single semester without increasing the price.
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