Back-To-Basics University

It's an easy-to-ignore building just off the interstate, with all the charm of an insurance office.

But this is where Kaileen Crane and her fellow freshman at this branch of Southern New Hampshire University have come to get started on their college degrees, reports CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

"It doesn't really matter what it looks like, it's the content that matters," said Crane. "The classes are exactly what I imagined."

You get what you pay for - and here, that's the point. This bare-bones school costs $10,000 a year for freshmen and sophomores. That's $15,000 a year less than students pay for tuition at the main campus.

"My first reaction was, 'Wow! Really? Could I really do that? That would be amazing,'" said Crane.

This is the first program of its kind. The students can earn a two-year degree or transfer all their low-cost credits to the main campus and continue school there. It started last fall with just 40 students. Next year they expect 100.

The classes - and even some of the professors - are the same as at the main campus.

But there's none of the trappings of college life that the students at the full-fare campus enjoy - a playing field, a fitness center, the dorms, or the dining hall. Here there's no ivy or quad, no football, no frats.

"There's not one right model of higher education," said Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University. "For these kids, in this time, this works really well. I don't think they feel deprived."

Students at the no-frills school can use all the frills they want here on the main campus for a fee - and even that's a bargain: $35 a year. But the thing is, even at that price, no one has taken them up on it.

"I'm not interested in any of that," said Crane of the extra services. "It would absolutely be a huge distraction."

Distractions are getting tougher to afford every day. So it's just the basics and just the facts - a better setting can wait for better times.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"