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Minnesota Catholic School Will Offer a 'Money-Back Guarantee'

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Copyright 1988 So sure are they that prospective students and their parents will like the Roman Catholic school, once they have tried it, that a money-back guarantee will become official policy next fall.

The school has sent a letter to parents of 8th graders in Catholic schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area describing the school's "Satisfaction Guaranteed" policy. It said: "If you, as a parent or student, decide the teachers, course work, religious instruction, extra-curricular activities or any part of the school does not fit your needs, we'll refund your tuition payments in full."

The offer applies to next year's 9th-grade students, who will have 30 days to get a taste of education at Totino-Grace before making their decision to stay or demand a refund.

"I've always said that once people walk in the doors here, they will like what we have to offer," said G. Gregory Balego, director of admissions. "So why not tell people we're so sure of it that we're willing to back it up with a guarantee?"

Mr. Balego, who came up with the idea late one night after a8planning-committee meeting, said the guarantee is part of the school's marketing effort to attract a larger 9th-grade class next year to offset an enrollment decline of about 100 students. This year's total enrollment in grades 9 through 12 is 785.

Because there are 12 other Catholic high schools in the Twin Cities area, Totino-Grace needs to expand its market to attract public- and other private-school children, Mr. Balego said.

"People who haven't tried Catholic schools are a little afraid to spend the tuition dollars," he said. In Totino-Grace's case, that amounts to $2,450 a year.

If the refund program backfires, he said, "we're going to have to seek additional funding somewhere."

But the risk is a calculated one. Only about five students in the freshman class drop out each year, Mr. Balego said, mainly because of family circumstances such as moving or divorce. Occasionally, one student may leave because of dissatisfaction with the school.

With the trial offer, the admissions director added, he can give more than just his assurances that a family made the right choice. Now, he said, "I can say, 'I guarantee you're going to like it."'--k.g.

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