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Georgia university offers to match tuition of some of nation’s top colleges

Oglethorpe University announced a unique plan Wednesday to compete with some of the nation’s top colleges.

Starting next fall semester, Oglethorpe, a private university in DeKalb County, will match the tuition of any flagship university in the nation for qualified students.

The annual tuition at most flagship universities is between $10,000 and $15,000, said Oglethorpe President Larry Schall.  Tuition at the University of Georgia, the state’s flagship public university, is about $9,500 for in-state students. Oglethorpe’s annual tuition next year will be about $39,000, Schall said in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That’s nearly a $30,000 difference for Georgia students.

The university awards about $24 million a year in aid. Oglethorpe believes it can afford this plan.

Schall estimates the proposal will bring an additional 70 students to Oglethorpe. There are about 340 first-year students this year at Oglethorpe. The total enrollment this fall is about 1,250 students.

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And if way more than 70 additional students come to Oglethorpe through this idea?

“We’d figure something out,” Schall said.

Larry Schall (in yellow) has taken hands-on approach as president of Oglethorpe University. Applications to the small liberal arts college in Brookhaven have quadrupled since he's taken over in 2005.

Students must have a minimum 3.5 cumulative grade-point average and either a combined 1250 SAT score or composite 26 ACT score to be eligible for the tuition program. 

Oglethorpe officials discussed the idea earlier this year after observing only about 15 percent of who initially applied there wound up at the university.

“Finances caused them to go to other places, particularly state universities,” Schall said.

The university did some research and discussed the idea with trustees. They wondered what risks would this plan entail.

Nearly all Oglethorpe students receive merit or needs-based aid, so administrators explained the plan is not drastically different than current efforts to support students. 

Schall hopes the idea will prompt more students from Georgia and across the nation to take a second look at Oglethorpe.

“It’s a clear way to say ‘You have an opportunity to study at a private university at a cost you can afford,’ ” he said.

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