In Patrick Rothfuss' The Kingkiller Chronicle, students at the University are asked to pay a variable amount for their tuition per term, based mostly on their performance in an interview in front of the entire head staff, and partly on their performance during the previous term. For example, a student who does well is asked for a lower payments, and troublesome or ignorant students are asked for higher payments.
Tuition is variable, and depends partly on the intelligence of the student:
I knew from my previous discussions with Ben that you needed money or brains to get into the University. The more of one you had, the less of the other you needed.
I also heard how high the other students' were set. The lowest had been four talents and six jots, but most were double that. One student had been charged over thirty talents for his tuition.
The Name of the Wind Chapter 36 "Less Talents"
The last span of every term at the University was reserved for admissions exams. Classes were canceled and the masters spent several hours of each day conducting examinations. Your next term's tuition was based on your performance. A lottery determined what day and hour you would go through admissions.
A great deal hung on the brief interview. Missing a few questions could easily double your tuition.
The Name of the Wind Chapter 49 "The Nature of Wild Things"
Bad behavior can negatively impact tuition:
"No," Manet snapped. "He's telling you what I've told you twice already. You're a king-high idiot if you go through admissions this term."
"What?" I asked. "Why?"
Manet set his cards down with profound calm. "Kvothe. You're a clever boy, but have a world of trouble listening to things you don't want to hear." [...]
"Take a term off," Wilem said [...]
"You really have to," Sim said earnestly. "Everyone's still talking about the trail. It's all anyone is talking about."
"The trial?" I laughed. "That was more than a span ago." [...]
"You can be certain the masters are uniformly wet-cat-mad about that."
Wilem set down his cards. "I predict," he said calmly, "that if you go through admissions, you will receive a tuition of at least thirty-five talents." He looked back and forth between Sim and Manet. "I will wager a full gold mark to this effect. Does anyone care to take my bet?"
Neither of them took him up on his offer.
The Wise Man's Fear Chapter 49 "The Ignorant Edema"
Upon his return to the University, Kvothe deliberately flunks his admissions interview, inflating his tuition to bring profit to the bursar and to himself (Alveron pays Kvothe's tuition after Kvothe did him some favors).
It was bad behavior though, and poorly timed, especially after my otherwise lackluster performance. As a result, I was assigned a tuition of twenty-four talents. Needless to say, I was terribly embarrassed.
Afterward I returned to the bursar's office. I officially presented Alveron's letter of credit to Riem and unofficially collected my agreed-upon cut: half of everything over ten talents. I put the seven talents in my purse and wondered idly if anyone had ever been paid so well for insolence and ignorance.
The Wise Man's Fear Chapter 142 "Home"
As the story continues, Kvothe is charged a different amount each semester, ranging from "less three talents" (simultaneously inventing and earning an academic scholarship) to some very high amount I can't remember at the moment.
Is there an existing tuition system in the real world that this system resembles?
I ask this question because many pieces of the University (besides, of course, the alchemy classes) seem to be based on real world higher education, including fairly accurate representations of chemistry labs, among other things. Kvothe's struggles in making his tuition payments are discussed a lot in the first two books of the series, so I was wondering if this tuition system is based on anything currently or previously practiced in real institutions of higher learning. No school that I have attended has ever used a system remotely similar.