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Wilson College Details Unusual Loan-Buyback Program

Wilson College has released details of an unusual debt-buyback offer that is one of the keys to a plan its trustees adopted in January in an effort to attract more students and keep the tiny Pennsylvania liberal-arts institution in business. Under the offer, the college will pay back up to $10,000 of a student’s federal Stafford student-loan indebtedness if the student earns a degree at Wilson within four years, participates in new financial-literacy programs the college will offer, and takes part in “activities and community services that would benefit the Wilson College community.”

How much the college will pay will be determined by the student’s grade-point average: $5,000 for students with a GPA of 3.5 to 3.69; $7,500 for a GPA of 3.7 to 3.89; and the full $10,000 for a 3.9 and higher.

Wilson administrators are also reducing its tuition by $5,000, to $23,745 in the 2014-15 academic year, after concluding that its sticker price was too high for the value the institution could offer. The loan-buyback plan and lower tuition were results of a months-long self-study that also prompted a controversial decision to admit men to Wilson’s traditional undergraduate program for the first time.

College officials say that the loan-buyback offer is among the first of its kind in higher education, and that it will cost the institution up to $100,000 a year, which it expects to cover by attracting more students. “It’s a proverbial win-win—for both students and the college,” said Wilson’s president, Barbara K. Mistick, in a written statement. “We are very hopeful that students and parents will see the value in our debt-buyback plan and take advantage of it.”

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