February 17, 2014 | Marcus Varner | Leave a comment It is no secret that college tuition rates have been rising at an alarming rate for the last several years. This increase in tuition has caused more would-be students to choose other schools or to skip college altogether, and this has hurt college enrollments. Especially, at private colleges, fewer students are applying. And that rise has forced more students to turn to debt to make ends meet. In fact, if you’re in college in right now, there’s a 60-percent chance that you have to take out student loans to cover the cost of college, according to American Student Assistance, a nonprofit dedicated to informing students about student loan options. All of this debt adds up for individuals and for the nation. In 2013, U.S. student loan debt raised to an astonishing $1.2 trillion. Where this story really gets bad is after graduation, when graduates can’t find the jobs that pay well enough to pay off their student loans. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as of 2013, 7 million students are at least 90 days past default in their student loans. This has become a crisis for the graduates, of course. Because the government insured these loans, it also becomes a huge problem for the national budget. So this problem is looming over students, colleges, and the government, and everyone is desperate to find a solution. This is where a ray of sunshine appears. After all, this story isn’t all gloom and doom. College have seen this issue and many have recently decided to lower tuition costs to help students with expenses. Some colleges, like Concordia University in Minnesota, have cut tuition costs by as much as 50 percent. This is about the opposite of what many students have seen over the last decade, and it works in favor of colleges and their students. For colleges, enrollment rates will start going up again. For students, the price tag of college is suddenly much easier to swallow. Before we break out the confetti and champagne and pack our bags for Minnesota, however, we should mention that it does come with a small catch. At many of the schools that have lowered their tuition, grant and scholarship programs have been cut. So, in actuality, for many students, the net amount they are paying is about the same. However, instead of students getting scholarships and grants, they are enrolling in a newly designed loan repayment program that will guarantee student loan repayment. These newly designed repayment programs have been designed to help insure that students pay off their student loans in a sufficient amount of time. It will even reimburse 100 percent of private, federal and Parent PLUS loan payments for graduates earning less than $20,000. The Loan Repayment Assistance Program Foundation, or LRAP Foundation, is teaming up with many colleges and universities by paying a percentage of their student loan repayments if students agree to certain criteria. Programs like these are helping students get their degrees but are also helping ensure that lenders are getting their money back in a timely matter. Schools involved in this program know it’s risky. They are taking the risk on their programs in order to make these loan repayment programs work. They believe that investing in a partial payment on students loan interest payments student will be more confident in getting a job after graduation. A loan repayment pledge still says a lot about a college’s confidence in its career and mentoring services, says Rosemary Hook, a career coach in Texas: “Savvy universities are saying that they believe so strongly in their education and support services … that they’ll quasi-guarantee a graduate will find reputable employment. Universities are not guaranteeing six-figure incomes only reasonable salaries.” However, it is reassuring to students because schools are showing their confidence that their departments will train their students well enough to help them to get a job after graduation. This investment that they are willing to pay part of their students interest until they receive a job that pays sufficient for their loan repayment agreement, avoiding default. The program continues to pay a percentage until the student begins earning $38,000 or more annually but graduates must work at least 30 hours per week at minimum wage to qualify for repayment assistance. This is just one way that colleges are trying to figure out how to get tuition rates down. In Tennessee and Oregon, for instance, it was announced that they would lower their tuition rates by paying for some their colleges’ expenses with lotteries. While some may question the benefits of this and other strategies for getting more students to come to college, there’s no question that students are the ones who stand to benefit the most.