- Associated Press - Saturday, September 6, 2014

WINONA LAKE, Ind. (AP) - A private Christian college in northern Indiana is thinking outside the box as it works to attract and retain students.

Grace College has implemented a three-year degree program, tuition discounts that grow the longer a student is enrolled and will even throw in free textbooks starting next fall through an initiative called Measure of Grace.

Grace’s spokesman David Grout told The Journal Gazette (https://bit.ly/1pIZMMH ) the venture is a “game changer” for the small evangelical school with about 2,200 students.

“We realize when you retain a student, it’s just easier than replacing lost students,” he said. Currently, the college’s retention rate is about 80 percent.

The innovative steps reflect a national push to find new ways to recruit students, said Paul Hassen, director of communications and marketing for the National Association of Independent Colleges in Washington, D.C.



“Private colleges, even public colleges, are competing very hard right now to attract students to their campuses. Although the number of students has been rising, the number of traditional students 18 to 22 is actually starting to slide downward,” Hassen said.

Measure of Grace calls for the college to reduce its tuition by 9 percent for incoming freshmen starting in 2015. Thereafter, each student’s yearly tuition will decrease by multiples of $500; $500 for the first year, $1,000 for the second and $1,500 for the third year for a total reward savings of $3,000.

The free textbook rentals will bring an average savings of $1,200 to students.

The tuition and book rental offer is available to the school’s 1,300 undergraduate students.

Grace also has instituted a three-year undergraduate program. Students can earn the 120 hours needed to graduate in 65 majors in three years by taking two online courses in the summer.

Grout said about half of the college’s students are considering the three-year track.

The shorter program appeals to Kristen Bellinger, 18, of Columbus, who fell in love with the school during a visit.

Karlyn Bellinger said her daughter wants to be a chiropractor, which would mean an additional three years of school after graduation.

When she heard about the three-year degree with a fourth year for a master’s, the Bellingers were sold.

“I said, ‘Oh my goodness, I didn’t know anything like that existed,’” Karlyn Bellinger said.

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, https://www.journalgazette.net

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