It’s human nature to become habitual. We get habit-oriented not just in the actions of our daily lives but also in our thought processes and by extension our problem solving abilities. That’s why it’s fundamental to the development of new and innovative ideas that we experiment, flipping a problem upside down to see what we come up with. The designers of Copenhagen’s Blue Planet Aquarium are no strangers to this idea; their creation has a stunning and unconventional design that attracts visitors the world over. In much the same way that the aquarium’s design was inspired by its environment, the sea, Indiana University was inspired by the troubling debacle of student loans plaguing its students. In an effort to help, the university announced last month the launch of an experiment to offset tuition increases.
The plan is to offer a tuition freeze via an academic incentive. If students are in good academic standing at the end of their sophomore year and are on track to graduate within a four year timeframe, the tuition freeze will take effect during their junior and senior year. “The size of student debt has reached alarming proportions nationally,” University President Michael McRobbie told USA TODAY, “This initiative will, though, be regarded as an experiment and we will assess its impact on four-year graduation rates during the 2015-16 academic year.”
As graduation from college after five or six years instead of four has become increasingly common in parallel with the increases in yearly tuition, it’s interesting to see a plan that incentivizes not just good academics, which will benefit the student as well as the school’s standing, but also provides a financial stimulus for a shorter undergraduate career. This certainly places a significant challenge on students not only to improve their grades but to do so while taking on heavier course loads. Today, most students view college as simply a continuation of high school thanks to academic inflation; a B.A. just doesn’t mean today what it once did. It begs the question, if college were more challenging, would a degree be worth more?
It will be exciting to see what the results of Indiana University’s experiment will look like. With so many borrowers struggling pay off student debt, combined with the fact that college today has become a near necessity, we can at least all agree that something needs to change. There’s something to be said for opening the doors to any and all new ideas in hopes of singling out the best ones. In that spirit, the battle against school loans is being fought on more than one front. Changing the way we conceptualize education and its cost is one area that needs to be tackled. Another is providing much needed relief for borrowers who are overwhelmed with debt. On that front there are student aid organizations eager to help borrowers fight the good fight.