JOHN JAMISON figures his daughter Rachel’s junior and senior years of college cost him roughly 300 lambs. A father of three, he paid for a portion of her English degree from Washington & Jefferson College with cuts of lamb from his 210-acre sheep farm in Latrobe, Pa. As a member of the Green Apple Barter Service, a fee-based barter bank in Pittsburgh with 1,000 members, he had racked up $30,000 worth of credits by throwing his naturally fed lambs into the pot; restaurants took his meat; he picked tuition credits; the college chose free advertising offered by other companies.
At least a dozen small private colleges, most in the heartland, use barter to fill classrooms and keep costs down, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. In exchange, colleges get printing, roofing, window washing and farm products. Lindenwood University, a liberal arts college in St. Charles, Mo., barters with families by advertising in farm trade journals. So far, 15 families have bartered for tuition. The university recently swapped a year’s tuition (cash value: $11,200) for pork or beef (cash value: $2,200). More than 200 students at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, a member of Alamo Barter, paid through barter.
”It’s a wonderful idea,” says Marianne Calenda, associate dean of students at Thiel College in Greenville, Pa., which has traded for mattresses and printing. But she wonders about choosing a college because you can pay with chops: ”College is such a personal thing in terms of fit. It may be more beneficial for the college than the student.” LAURA RANDALL