Wall Street Journal Cites Augustana Value

The Wall Street Journal:
Should College Resemble A Low-Cost Airline? Schools Tout Value Over Amenities

By Melissa Korn | WSJ Blog, The Wallet

When I visited colleges during my senior year of high school, the tour guides all raved about their luxury dorms with dimmer light switches and private study rooms, fancy dining halls with visiting top chefs and state-of-the-art athletic facilities. These days, tour guides are more likely to talk up their three-year graduation rates and financial aid offerings.

The value push makes sense, considering that 55% of teens have altered their college plans because of the economy, according to a spring Junior Achievement/Allstate Foundation survey. Since investment acounts haven’t quite recovered from last year’s tumble and parents are still losing jobs at an alarming rate, an increasing number of colleges and universities are marketing themselves as the best bang-for-your-buck option rather than the best place to lounge in a lazy river or perfect the art of late-night pizza orders for four or five years.

More than a half-dozen schools, including Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., and Lipscomb University in Nashville, have launched new three-year degree options to help families lessen the inevitable debt load. The programs picked up steam when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) promoted them during a February conference of the American Council on Education, likening accelerated degrees to fuel-efficient cars. Most of the programs require students to take summer classes or more courses during regular term, but they promise savings of at least a year of room and board.

Others, such as Southern New Hampshire University, are touting no-frills satellite campuses. Students there can study at an offshoot location for two years, saving 40% on regular tuition. They can transfer to the main Manchester campus, at full price, for the final two years. The students have access to the same professors, but there are no dorms, high-end gyms or cafeterias at the Salem branch. Classes meet in an office building. University president Paul LeBlanc has likened the program to a “low-cost airline.”

Then there are the schools that are simply cheaper than the competition. Augustana College, a Lutheran school in Sioux Falls, S.D., has a site wholly devoted to touting “The Augustana College Value Proposition,” including a chart comparing its tuition with that of nine similar nearby schools. (Augustana wins by an average $9,460.) The school has even posted a half-dozen billboards in and around the St. Paul-Minneapolis metropolitan area, promoting the school as “a great private college without the sticker shock” and directing viewers to the Web site. Bob Preloger, vice president for marketing and communications, calls the effort, which launched last winter, “a pretty aggressive campaign.” Preloger said the freshman class is a little bigger this year than last and retention is very strong.

If talk of bare-bones campuses and mandatory work-study piques your interest, BusinessWeek has a list of tuition-free colleges.


The Wall Street Journal
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212.416.2000