Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Four Year Course Life 101 is Continuously in Session at College of the Ozarks ... Paying for College Tuition the Old Fashioned Way ... By Earning It

College attendance has become prohibitively costly for many of our young people absent government assistance, aka taxpayers, in the form of grants and loans.

The money from those grants and loans is mostly used to pay high salaries to college administrators and the accompanying bloated and unproductive bureaucracy, including buildings, but that's another story for another time.

And of course, too many of the students who enter college are ill prepared and thus incur these needlessly high costs and associated debt before dropping out without graduating, but that's also another story for another time as well.

So today let's focus on paying for college tuition the old fashioned way ---by earning it.

What 'Hard Work U' Can Teach Elite Schools is subtitled ''We don't do debt here' says College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis:'

"Point Lookout, Mo.

Looking for the biggest bargain in higher education? I think I found it in this rural Missouri town, 40 miles south of Springfield, nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The school is College of the Ozarks, and it operates on an education model that could overturn the perverse method of financing college education that is turning this generation of young adults into a permanent debtor class. . . . 

At College of the Ozarks, tuition is free. That's right. The school's nearly 1,400 students don't pay a dime in tuition during their time there.

So what's the catch? All the college's students—without exception—pay for their education by working 15 hours a week on campus. The jobs are plentiful because this school . . . operates its own mill, a power plant, fire station, four-star restaurant and lodge, museum and dairy farm.

Some students from low-income homes also spend 12 weeks of summer on campus working to cover their room and board. Part of the students' grade point average is determined by how they do on the job and those who shirk their work duties are tossed out. The jobs range from campus security to cooking and cleaning hotel rooms, tending the hundreds of cattle, building new dorms and buildings, to operating the power plant.
A College of the Ozarks student hard at work.

The college was founded in 1906 . . . . From the start, the school was run on the same work-for-education principle as it is today. . . .

"We don't do debt here," Mr. Davis says. "The kids graduate debt free and the school is debt free too." Operating expenses are paid out of a $400 million endowment. Seeing the success of College of the Ozarks, one wonders why presidents of schools with far bigger endowments don't use them to make their colleges more affordable. This is one of the great derelictions of duty of college trustees . . . .

In an era when patriotism on progressive college campuses is uncool or even denigrated as endorsing American imperialism, College of the Ozarks actually offers what it calls a "patriotic education." "There's value in teaching kids about the sacrifices previous generations have made," Mr. Davis says. "Kids should know there are things worth fighting for."

He says a dozen or so students will be taking a pilgrimage to Normandy in June to commemorate the 70-year anniversary of D-Day and the former College of the Ozarks students buried there. . . .

The emphasis on work in exchange for learning doesn't mean the classroom experience is second rate. The college has a renowned nursing program, business school and agriculture program. . . .

These aren't the highest academic status kids (the average ACT score is 21), but there is an unmistakable quest to succeed. To gain admittance, each student must demonstrate "financial need, academic ability, sound character, and a willingness to work." Elizabeth Hughes, the public-relations director, says: "We don't have a lot of rich kids . . . they have plenty of other schools they can choose from."

That doesn't mean the school is not in high demand. Unlike many small liberal-arts schools that are suffering a steep decline in applications, last year College of the Ozarks had 4,000 applicants for about 400 freshman slots, which makes this remote little school among the nation's most selective.

All of this raises the question: To bring down tuition costs elsewhere, is it so unthinkable that college students be required to engage in an occasional honest day's work? . . .

At Hard Work U, the kids actually do the dishes and much more while working their way through a four-year degree. Nearly 90% of graduates land jobs—an impressive figure, given the economy's slow-motion recovery.

"If I were an employer, I'd take our graduates over those at most any other schools," says Mr. Davis. . . . Our graduates don't expect to come into the company as the CEO." But they certainly join a company knowing the value of work.""

Summing Up

What's not to like about College of the Ozarks and its approach to granting the 'real world education' associated with work while also holding down the costs of getting a coveted and valuable college degree?

And why aren't there more institutions of higher learning out there taking the same approach?

And why aren't We the People demanding more value for the money we're spending at the majority of these so-called institutions of higher learning?

Earning our way through college makes sense to me, and it also helps teach valuable life lessons.

The four year long course Life 101 is highly educational, alive and doing very well at the College of the Ozarks. That's for sure.

And that's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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