The for-profit’s new venture New Charter University — sidesteps the loan system by setting tuition so cheap that most students shouldn’t need to borrow. The price: $796 per semester, or $199 a month, for as many classes as they can finish.
“This is not buying a house,” says Mr. Wade, co-founder and chief executive of UniversityNow. “This is like, do I want to get cable?”
Another novelty: New Charter offers a try-it-before-you-buy-it platform that mimics the “freemium” model of many consumer Web services. Anyone can create an account and start working through its self-paced online courses free of charge. Their progress gets recorded. If they decide to pay up and enroll, they get access to an adviser (who helps navigate the university) and course specialists (who can discuss the material). They also get to take proctored online tests for course credit.