We recently reported that two law schools were offering partial refunds if their graduates failed to pass the bar exam.

This is one example of a new trend in college marketing schemes: Deals.  Douglas Belkin and Melissa Korn have an article about other higher education bargains in the Wall Street Journal.

A growing number of liberal-arts colleges are supplementing their traditional glossy brochures touting ivy-covered libraries and great-books seminars with more pecuniary pitches: Buy seven semesters, get one free. Apply today, get $2,500 cash back. Free classes after four years.

The schools are adjusting their marketing to attract students at a time when families are struggling to foot the bill for college—and increasingly concerned about the potential payoff. Some of the most aggressive offers come from the most financially vulnerable schools: midtier, private institutions that are heavily dependent on tuition and sit in regions with shrinking pools of college-bound high-school seniors.

To show it is serious about students finishing in four years, Alma College in Alma, Mich., started this past fall promising free classes for those who need to stay longer—as about one in five Alma students typically do. Alma is publicizing the offer, along with a $2,500 stipend to pursue an internship or research project to attract students from outside the school’s traditional central Michigan recruiting base, said President Jeff Abernathy.
“We’re 127 years old, but doing business the same way as we always have isn’t going to work for the next 127 years,” he said.

The pressure on liberal-arts schools is coming from several directions. Nationwide, the number of graduating high-school seniors this year is expected to decline to 3.32 million from a projected all-time high of 3.41 million during the 2010-11 school year, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. And fewer college-bound seniors are choosing private four-year schools: Between 2006 and 2011, the percentage of students at those schools dropped to 20% from 22%, according to the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center.

For students headed to college, tuition is a bigger issue than ever. The average cost of public and private schools jumped 92% between 2001 and 2011, compared with a 27% rise in the consumer-price index. Last year the average amount that students at public colleges paid in tuition, after state and institutional grants and scholarships, climbed 8.3%, the biggest jump on record, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association…..

Kayla Handy, a senior at Huntingdon Area High School in Huntingdon, Pa., said she would welcome such offers. The 18-year-old, who has applied to several private, liberal-arts colleges, worries she will graduate unable to pay her bills. “The idea of finishing with all that debt and no job is scary,” Ms. Handy said.