By Amanda Weston

Faced with the prospect of crippling debt after graduation, some college students may be able to forgo costly loans and hand over a cut of their future paychecks to their schools in return for reduced tuition.

Norwich University, a military college in Vermont, is the latest school to introduce Income Share Agreements, a program that offers caps, repayment schedules, and length of payment. Graduates get a six-month grace period and don't have to begin paying Norwich back until they earn at least $20,000 a year.

"This might be their only option," said Daphne Larkin, Norwich's director of media relations and community affairs. "Our primary objective is to help our students graduate. We want them to return to school, and we don't want this gap in funding from the loss of Perkins loans or because they're taking a little bit longer to graduate and their institutional aid has run out. We don't want that to keep them from returning and we certainly don't want that to keep them from graduating."

The school has offered the program to 70 qualifying students relying on the now-defunct federal Perkins loan program or who cannot complete their degrees in four years. About a dozen Norwich students have expressed interest for the upcoming fall term, Larkin said.

The average 2017 graduate owes about $39,400, a six percent increase from 2016, according tot the Student Loan Hero website. About 44 million American borrowers owe close to $1.5 trillion.

To offer its students an alternative, Norwich has partnered with Vemo Education, a Virginia company that works with almost 30 public and private colleges and universities in the United States to implement income share agreements.

Larkin said ISA programs are expanding.

"It's not a new idea, but it's being newly applied to universities and colleges in the United States," she said. "There are some other programs that are larger and that I think have been pretty successful."

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