Crunching The Numbers To Cover Tuition

Any other semester, Susan Mascolo might have been forced to drop out of school. A senior at St. Peter's College in Jersey City, N.J., her family came up short on tuition.

"My parents cannot pay right now," Mascolo told CBS News Chief National Correspondent Byron Pitts.

She's not alone. In years past, this small private school saw about 12 students a semester who were unable to pay their tuition. But last semester that number jumped to 123 - nearly 5 percent of the student body. College President Gene Cornacchia realized he had a major problem. So he came up with a plan.

"We've tightened our belt here at the college and trimmed our budget to try and free up some additional resources," said Cornacchia.

How? By cutting back on things like daily trash pick-ups to twice a week, saving $100,000 a year. They've also delayed hiring, a $200,000 savings. It is all in an effort to increase financial aid packages to keep kids in school.

Across the country, colleges are taking extraordinary steps to reduce the financial burden on students. One school, William Jessup University in Rocklin, Calif., has lowered its tuition by 2.5 percent, a savings of $500 per student. Several schools like Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, are eliminating tuition for families who earn less than $75,000 a year.

April McAllister, a student at Atlanta's Spelman College, had run out of options.

"I struggled through last semester, just thinking about how I was going to pay tuition," she said.

She was forced to drop out because she couldn't pay the $3,700 she owes on her tuition, and she is having no luck finding a job.

"They hired everybody that they are going to be hiring," McAllister said. "So I guess it is back to the drawing board again."

At Spelman, more than 500 of its 2,100 students found themselves in financial difficulty. So last December, the school started the Starfish Fund, where donors make tuition payments for Spelman students near graduation.

"We are at risk of losing a whole generation of students, young women and men, who have done everything we've asked them to do," said Beverly Daniel Tatum, the college's president.

And it won't get easier for colleges or students, because many are facing state budget cuts and shrinking endowments which means higher tuitions next year.