Howard University is refunding some graduates half of the tuition that they paid this semester in an effort to encourage more students to complete their education on time.
Tuition at Howard University for the 2015 – 2016 academic year is about $23,00, or $11,500 a semester. Graduating seniors whose families paid out-of-pocket for the spring term will be eligible for a 50% rebate that equals roughly $5,750. More than a hundred soon-to-be graduates will be eligible for such a rebate. The rebate program was unanimously supported by Howard University's board of trustees.
"We talk about student debt a lot of this country, but a part of the problem is students taking five or six years to graduate," says Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard University. "The goal here was, in part, to give some incentive to finish on time. And to show that as an institution, we're not just interested in you getting an education, but we're also interested in you getting a very good start."
Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of The Washington Post, reports that rebates will start rolling out this week as students prepare for graduation on May 7. The rebates are costing the school about $250,000, an investment that President Frederick says is well worth the cost. The payments will eb made up until the university's commencement ceremony for which President Obama is planning to deliver the commencement speech.
Analysts see the move as part of a solution to manage the university's cost. Currently, the university spends million of dollars providing grants to students who take five or six years to graduate. If students were to graduate on time in four years, they would save the university money and grant themselves extra years in the workforce.
According to Christine Sturdivant of the website dcist, U.S. News & World Report claimed that one of the reasons Howard University fell off the publication's list of the top 100 national universities was because of a decline in graduation and retention rates. The university's current 4-year graduation rate is just 42%. University staff hopes that the rebates will help reverse this trend. In addition to promoting four-year graduations, the university hopes the rebates will incentivize parents to pay out of pocket rather than relying on federal and private loans to cover costs.
"If we can give an incentive to push students to finish in four years, we're actually going to save money," says Frederick. "Plus we get newly minted alumni earlier, we get them situated better earlier, so their ability to turn around and support the institution happens more quickly."
Previously, Howard University students have cited the institution's financial aid policies as a point of contention. Last year, the marching band announced a protest during a football game "to shed light on the lack of financial support for the student body." The university has since been working to increase access to financial aid and lessen undergraduates' financial burdens.
Howard University is a historically black university located in Washington, D.C., founded in 1867. According to the website benzinga, Howard University produces more African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States.