Colleges are promising tuition-free semesters in wake of coronavirus

As colleges struggle to retain students in the wake of the pandemic, several institutions are offering tuition-free semesters for students who will enroll in the upcoming academic year.

Beloit College, a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin, announced ahead of the new academic year where classes officially begin on September 1, that it will offer a tuition-free ninth and 10th semester to students who enroll full-time in the 2020-2021 school year.

St. Norbert College, a private Catholic college also in Wisconsin, made a "ninth-semester-free" promise to all students who successfully complete 12 or more credit units in the upcoming school year and meet grade and disciplinary standing requirements.

In Washington, Pacific Lutheran University also announced that undergraduates in full-time student status in the new school year will be eligible for a supplemental year of free-tuition following graduation.

Coronavirus has posed a number of challenges for colleges as the new academic year draws near. Colleges have announced various plans including remote coursework to shortening and postponing semester timelines as they attempt to plan for safety while retaining student enrollment.

Even so, keeping college students during the uncertainty of the pandemic remains a huge challenge.

One survey by SimpsonScarborough, a private higher education research and marketing agency, found that 40% of incoming freshmen across the country said in July that they are unlikely to attend a four-year institution this fall.

College admissions experts told Insider's Kelly McLaughlin that more schools are accepting students from the waitlist as undergraduate enrollment drops. For small colleges like Beloit, St. Norbert, and Pacific Lutheran, all of which have student populations less than 5,000, the challenges of keeping the institution open are hefty.

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