Precinct 333

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Bargain At Twice The Price

Hey, kid, want a bargain basement price for college? Try St. Louis Christian College.

In a big, fat, expensive valentine to its 200 students (and parents), the Bible college's board of trustees on Saturday agreed to provide full-tuition scholarships for its resident students starting this fall. That adds up to more than $16,000 in savings over four years.

For a student taking 12 credit hours (though many students take more), the old system cost about $10,000 a year. Cancel the tuition and add a new $450 student services fee, plus increased room-and-board fees and the new total will be about $6,000.

The school sees its primary mission as preparing students for ministry, and hopes to make it possible for more young people to answer their calling. It is also hoped that the tuition-free program will bring about an increase in enrollment.

"Why on earth are we doing this?" Jamie Lankford, St. Louis Christian's director of business, asked at the chapel service.

He answered by ticking off statistics: Three out of five ministers leave the ministry within their first five years. About 50 percent of ministers are at or near retirement age.

With dorm rooms only about a third full, Lankford said, administrators knew they could do more to help fill them. And they could do it by reducing the amount of loans students take out - especially since many students will take on low-paying jobs in the ministry.

If St. Louis Christian can double enrollment, it can offset the costs of the tuition plan, said Tom Wallace, the school's director of development. He's hoping for 70 more students this fall.

The school also anticipates raising about $400,000 in the next two years from area churches, alumni and individuals.

And, for the record, commuters will pay half-tuition (and save about $1,900 a year) while part-timers will get no breaks.

If it works, it will be the salvation of the college – and a boon to its students. But the question is, will it mark a trend towards decreasing tuition rates everywhere?


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