CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – Thomas More College got creative to save its students some cash on textbooks.
President David Armstrong announced at the Covington Business Council lunch Thursday that students will rent their textbooks from the bookstore instead of buying them, saving the average full-time student between $180 and $380 a year.
Here's how it works: Student fees will jump $620 to $1,350 annually to pay for the rental program, and students will be loaned all the books they need for classes in exchange.
Armstrong said students have paid, on average $800 to $1,000 a year to buy books. He said Thomas More is subsidizing the new program. "This is cash that students won't have to pay," he said. "We're excited about that. It should help with true out-of-pocket expenses."
Textbook rentals are common at bookstores throughout Greater Cincinnati's universities -- including University of Cincinnati, Xavier and Miami -- but the all-you-can-rent option tied to student fees is novel.
The cost of tuition at Thomas More is about $27,220 and the full cost of attending is calculated at $38,593 annually, according to CNN's college cost calculator.
It's an idea that Armstrong, who has been president for 263 days, by his count, has been working on since the beginning of the school year as a means to give students a break on the high cost of higher education.
He acknowledged to the CBC crowd that Thomas More has to grow its revenue and enrollment in order to survive and flourish given increased competition for students and a dwindling college population.
Thomas More is trying to meet the challenge by developing a new strategic plan that Armstrong hopes to present to the board in September.
The plan will be built around four pillars:
• Remaining a mission-centric institution, built around the Catholic faith and the values that it imparts
• Increasing resources through enrollment growth, fundraising and auxiliary income like renting out campus facilities
• Expanding the brand by raising Thomas More's profile within a three-hour drive radius of the school
• Enhancing the transformative experience of earning a degree
The school has worked on boosting enrollment by adding a marching band, a women's lacrosse team and an athletic training major.
Thursday, Armstrong announced that the school will add a marine biology track to its bachelor's of science in biology degree, capitalizing on its existing Biology Field Station on the Ohio River. Asked if the marine biology track will include interaction with the Newport Aquarium, Armstrong said, "I can't talk about that right now."
The college is also pursuing plans to expand its adult classes online, developing its first online cohort in communications this month.
Finally, the college is making experiential learning – internships, co-ops and other hands-on training rather than classroom work – a requirement to graduate. Armstrong believes Thomas More will be the first college in Kentucky to make such learning a requirement.
He's bullish on Thomas More's future despite the challenges facing higher education.
"We have to have a return on investment," he said.