"They were saying, 'We think it's too much money,' or, 'We're concerned about the debt,'" said
Freshmen and transfer students at
The college has teamed up with the
"We understand that there's fears around loans, and so we're offering this," Currie said. "We believe in our degree, and we're going to back it up."
The college pays an undisclosed fee per student to LRAP for the loan repayment assistance guarantee.
Graduates who earn less than
The benefit shrinks proportionally as a graduate's income increases, up to
More than a dozen other schools offer loan repayment assistance through LRAP to a limited selection of their students -- and LRAP is signing up new colleges and universities at a rate of three a month, said
About one-third of graduates of schools that offer the loan assistance plan avail themselves of at least some assistance, and, on average, the benefit comprises 82 percent of the loan payments they make, Stevens said.
"Educational debt has become more a fact of life for all families," he said.
So why doesn't
Currie said its not so simple.
"On the one side, families will say, 'That's a lot of money,' but on the other side, they say, 'We want four dining options and residence halls that are fully tricked out,'" he said.
Over the past five years, enrollment at the Christian college dropped by 355 students, a quarter of the entire student body.
The LRAP model aims for students to enroll at their preferred college, rather than picking another college simply because of its lower tuition or better financial aid package, Stevens said.
In 2013, about 57 percent of incoming freshmen enrolled at their first-choice campus -- the lowest percentage since 1974, according to the
At the same time, nearly half of freshmen reported that their school's financial aid offer was a "very important" factor in their college choice decision -- the highest percentage in 42 years.
The foundation also wants graduates to be able to make early career decisions without having the burden of college debt influencing those decisions.
"When they graduate, they can pursue their calling in life," Stevens said.
Colleges benefit from LRAP, as well, because the program's fees are far less expensive than the amount of discounting necessary -- usually
"Colleges already are giving away everything they can in the way of conventional financial aid," Stevens said. "By adding the LRAP component they can actually do more with less."
Adding a small amount of institutional financial aid usually doesn't change the fact that a student will have to borrow money anyway, added
Families understand the loan repayment assistance plan is "there for all their student debts," Stevens said. "That protection is much better than conventional aid of a few thousand dollars in institutional grants."
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