Recruit & Retain (Wilson College)

Student Debt Buyback Program

Founded in 1869, Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA, is a liberal arts college offering bachelor’s degrees in 32 majors/concentrations and master’s degrees in education, the humanities and accountancy. A new initiative undertaken by Wilson College is offering prospective students a rare opportunity in the increasingly expensive world of higher education — a chance for students to reduce their debt by up to $10,000 through a unique debt buyback program.

Under Wilson’s student debt buyback plan, among the first of its kind in higher education, the college will pay up to $10,000 toward a student’s federal Stafford Loan debt if the student meets prescribed academic and service requirements. The debt buyback program will be available to students entering in fall 2014. To qualify, each student considered for the program must be a first-time college student and earn a diploma in four years or less of continuous, full-time enrollment at Wilson College.

Real-Word Rationale

Wilson’s debt buyback plan, which was drawn from corporate practices, recognizes the need to make college more affordable and creates a strong value proposition for the institution.

“It provides an innovative form of support for Wilson students while serving as a powerful incentive for academic success, service to the community and participation in the life of the campus,” says Dr. Barbara K. Mistick, president of Wilson College. “We want to encourage students to take full advantage of the college experience, while reducing the burden of student debt.”

The debt buyback program was approved by the Wilson College Board of Trustees in January as part of a bold series of measures aimed at rejuvenating the college by significantly increasing enrollment, strengthening programs and facilities, addressing issues of educational cost and value and ensuring financial sustainability in the future.

By the Numbers

In addition to creating the debt buyback plan, Wilson’s trustees voted to reduce tuition by $5,000, or 17 percent, to $23,745 in the 2014-15 academic year. Last fall, the board agreed to freeze tuition for 2013-14 at $28,745 for the third year in a row.

The buyback program will begin with the incoming class in fall 2014, with the first eligible students graduating in spring 2018. Wilson officials expect the plan to cost up to $100,000 a year, depending on variables. The college will fund the plan through the additional revenue generated by increased enrollments and retention of students participating in the program.

“It’s a proverbial win-win — for both students and the college,” Dr. Mistick said. “We are very hopeful that students and parents will see the value in our debt buyback plan and take advantage of it.” Some specifics of the debt buyback program:

  • Restricted to Stafford student loans that relate to enrollment at Wilson College. The Stafford loan is the primary federal loan for college students.
  • Requires a pledge by the student to borrow only what is necessary to meet educational expenses.
  • Participation in financial literacy programs, being offered to all students in their freshman and senior years.
  • Restricted to first-time college students who earn a diploma in four years or less of continuous, full-time enrollment at Wilson.
  • Buyback amounts vary depending on a student’s final grade-point average (GPA), out of a possible 4.0 ($5,000 for those with a GPA of 3.5 to 3.69, $7,500 for those with a GPA of 3.7 to 3.89 or $10,000 for those with a GPA of 3.9 or higher).
  • To qualify for the debt buyback program, students will also be required to demonstrate active involvement and participation in activities and community services that would benefit the Wilson College community, such as: participating in student government, working with community organizations, tutoring other students and participating in campus sustainability initiatives.

The plan, approved by Wilson’s Board of Trustees in January, calls for expanding coeducation at Wilson across all programs Traditional-age male students are being admitted as commuters for fall 2013. The college will admit male residential students in fall 2014.

Wilson College has been named a “Best Value” college in its region for providing quality academics at an affordable price for 11 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” publication. The college has been ranked one of the best regional colleges for undergraduate education for nine straight years by U.S. News.

Visit for more information.

This article originally appeared in the College Planning & Management July 2013 issue of Spaces4Learning.