250th College Joins SAGE Tuition Rewards Enrollment Consortium

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Salve Regina University (Newport, RI) became the 250th private colleges or university to join Tuition Rewards, a unique college savings program from SAGE Scholars that rewards families who patronize participating financial partners with points that can be redeemed for tuition discounts at member schools.

By providing both financial incentives and unbiased information to families, in a collective fashion, we can encourage them to sensibly plan and invest for their children's, or grandchildren's future. With more than 175,000 students now enrolled and with the sort of magic sound of '250' colleges, I think we've made a nice step toward that goal.

Tuition Rewards, America's unique college savings program, has capped a decade of growth with a milestone. 250 U.S. private colleges & universities now participate in the SAGE Scholars-sponsored enrollment marketing consortium that rewards families for saving for college with tuition discounts.

Participating families earn Tuition Reward Points, similar to frequent flyer miles, by saving for college with a variety of financial partners, including the Pennsylvania & Wisconsin state 529 college savings programs, The College Tuition Benefit, First Midwest Bank, credit unions and national marketing organizations.

When registered students attend a participating private college, the family's accumulated Tuition Reward Points are redeemed as a scholarship - a non-need based grant or discount - capped at one full year's tuition spread evenly over four years (or as negotiated). Participating colleges benefit by gaining the ability to market to the 175,000+ participating students once they reach 9th grade. Member colleges have found the demographics - students from families actually saving for college and who have indicated interest in attending a private college - to be attractive.

Salve Regina University, a vibrant learning community where intellectual curiosity and ethical responsibility converge, recently became the first Rhode Island member and 62nd Catholic college to join Tuition Rewards, expanding the consortium to exactly 250 private colleges & universities in 41 states.

Set against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and Newport's famous Cliff Walk, Salve Regina boasts perhaps the most scenic college campus in New England. More than 20 historic properties on 80 oceanfront acres that were once Gilded Age summer estates have been restored and adapted to form the core of a renowned campus home to 2,000 undergraduate and 500 graduate students from 35 states and 16 countries.

For more than 60 years, Salve Regina University graduates have been making a difference through their work and in their communities. More than the awe-inspiring ocean vistas, the historic mansions or the modern campus facilities, it is the promise of each student's future that is most important to the college community. The university's mission echoes that of its sponsoring order -- the Sisters of Mercy -- to work for a world that is harmonious, just and merciful.

The Tuition Rewards enrollment consortium has been expanding nationally in 2010, attracting colleges in the mountain states and West -- Prescott College (AZ), University of San Diego (CA) and Westminster College (UT) -- as well as four Illinois schools: Concordia University Chicago (IL), Elmhurst College (IL), North Central College (IL) and Olivet Nazarene University (IL). Also new to the consortium in 2010 are Calumet College of St. Joseph (IN), Eastern Nazarene College (MA), Susquehanna University (PA) and Valley Forge Christian College (PA). Forty-eight Pennsylvania private colleges now belong to the expanding consortium, which has added 56 new colleges in the past 28 months.

"There's no downside for a college to join. It doesn't cost a college anything, and most will gain additional, well-qualified students," declared Dr. James B. Johnston, chairman and CEO of SAGE Scholars. "By providing both financial incentives and unbiased information to families, in a collective fashion, we can encourage them to sensibly plan and invest for their children's, or grandchildren's future. With more than 175,000 students now enrolled and with the sort of magic sound of '250' colleges, I think we've made a nice step toward that goal."

Drexel University (92 applications) and Duquesne University (70 applications) were the most popular choices of Tuition Reward students in 2009. Total enrollment has surpassed 175,000 students, with the consortium's "class" of high school seniors expanding at 20% per year.

Dr. Johnston outlined four key goals for SAGE Scholars and the Tuition Rewards consortium over the next few years:
1. Increasing Our Student Enrollment Base: "175,000 students is a nice number, but 500,000 would be better!"
2. Intergenerational Funding: "A few years ago, an AARP study found that over 50% of grandparents were helping, or intended to help, finance their grandchildren's education. I often make the not-original statement that grandparents want three things in life: 'A financially-secure retirement; heaven when they die; and, a legacy for their grandchildren.' We're focused on helping grandparents provide the legacy."
3. Creative Ways To Provide College Funding: "Reverse mortgages, cash-value life insurance and guaranteed return investments are all potential college funding instruments. We are educating families about the positive and possible negative consequences of these and other alternatives.
4. SELF (School Enabled Lending Fund): "We are partnering with National Education, a highly-regarded student loan company, to encourage SAGE member colleges to offer a hybrid 'loan-discount' plan." The product is especially relevant to helping students, whose families suffer financial setbacks during the college years, remain in school and graduate on time.

The SAGE message to participating families is that private higher education is considerably more affordable than most people believe -- and not only because of generous financial aid packages available. The greater likelihood of graduating in four years at a private college -- versus remaining on the "bank of mom & dad" during a fifth or sixth year of college at a state institution - is unknown to many families. Research conducted at UCLA has shown that the graduation rate from four-year private universities is 67% -- versus 28% from public universities.

"In many cases, the four-year graduation rate at a private institution is very similar to the six-year graduation rate at a comparable public institution that a student may be considering," Dr. Johnston said.

About SAGE Scholars:
Founded in 1995, SAGE Scholars promotes private higher education and its member colleges to the 175,000+ enrolled students and their families via its website, email and a weekly e-newsletter. Member colleges may contact students once they reach 9th grade at no charge. Tuition Rewards is the nation's largest private college savings program based on participating students and value of eligible assets. For more information, contact Dr. James B. Johnston, jjohnston(at)sagescholars(dot)com. For a full list of participating colleges, visit the Tuition Rewards website.

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Robert Savett
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