Students set their own tuition—and their professors' salaries—at this university

The cost of college tuition is often a controversial topic for administrators, students, and the public alike, reports Harriet Swain for The Guardian.

But what if students helped set the price?

The United Kingdom's Co-operative College, a non-profit that has spent the past century promoting co-operative values, aims to find out, writes Swain.

The organization formed a working group of academics and students hoping to establish an alternative type of higher education institution, she notes.

The groups plan to experiment with an alternative education model pioneered by Spain's Mondragon University, a non-profit co-operative where students set tuition and academic salaries, says Mike Neary, professor of sociology at the University of Lincoln.

At Co-operative, students will play a large role in decisionmaking and shaping their own education, says Neary. The potentially disruptive nature of such a college is not lost on Vice-Principal Cilla Ross, who says the program may be "complete mayhem... or an [important] opportunity."

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The group plans to present its findings in November, Swain reports.

This search for alternative higher education models has been spurred by the UK's Higher Education and Research Act, which helps groups providing degree-level education gain degree-awarding powers, she notes.

Co-operative is not alone in its pursuit for alternative models. The Free University of Brighton (FUB) offers evening and weekend classes taught by volunteer academics at no cost, Swain writes.

Instead of an official degree, students can only earn a "freegree" certificate, reports Swain. Even so, students from around the United Kingdom are asking to enroll, says FUB Founder Ali Ghanimi.

Brian Berwick, a retiree and third-year student at FUB, says he's "proud to be part" of such a wonderful organization (Swain, The Guardian, 9/14).

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