A private, Christian university in Michigan has announced that it will help students pay back their student loans after they graduate if their income does not meet specific benchmarks.
Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Mich., announced Tuesday that all incoming fall freshmen in 2013 would be automatically enrolled in its Loan Repayment Assistance Program, made available through the Loan Repayment Assistance Foundation.
"We are providing a safety net for them," said Matthew Osborne, vice president for enrollment management at the university, which was founded in 1873.
Students who are U.S. citizens or parents who are struggling to pay educational loans will be reimbursed for their loan payments, depending on their income, by the foundation. The students in the program must work 30 hours a week, which they'll have to prove through pay stubs. The students can stay in the program until their loans have been repaid.
The foundation said that lower- and upper-income thresholds are $20,000 and $37,000, respectively, which will factor into how much assistance will be made available to the students.
"Spring Arbor University realizes that the education debt load is a real issue students are facing," said Malachi Crane, assistant vice president for communications. "It's becoming a greater issue every year. We wanted to be as proactive as possible to address the needs of students and parents to come."
This year, tuition is more than $22,000. Next year, it will increase to more than $23,000.
"The beauty of the program structuring is that it's like a reverse scholarship," Crane said. "For a scholarship, you know how much you will receive in four years. This relief shows what happens afterward."
The liberal arts university, which has more than 4,000 enrolled students, said the feedback for the program had been positive, except for a few grumblings from some current students and alumni who are not eligible for the program.
"The institution is in a position moving forward to make this commitment, but to try to address alumni from the past is not what we were able to do," Osborne said.