(News Nation) — From hotel workers to firefighters, many employees at the College of the Ozarks in southwest Missouri have something surprising: They’re students.
While many undergrads are forced to pay for their degrees through college, at the College of the Ozarks this is by design. Each of the 1,500 students at Christian, a four-year “work college” is assigned a job to offset the cost of education.
Students work 15 hours a week during the school year and are able to be debt free. This is a bargain for them, as well as for the school, which can reduce costs by using students to fill multiple jobs on campus.
“That’s why we’ve stayed true to our mission since our founding in 1906. We still care for and provide education to those who are qualified but without adequate means,” said College of the Ozarks Dean of Work Brian Cizek he said.
According to Cizek, 90 percent of every class the school attends must demonstrate financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The school’s innovative approach is relevant at a time when 43 million Americans have some form of federal student loans.
While discussions are ongoing in Washington about forgiving some of that debt, less attention has been paid to the underlying cost of a college education, which has been slowly rising for decades.
Financial concerns top the list of reasons why students drop out of college and students from poor families are especially vulnerable to drop outs.
Work college, which requires students to work without or in exchange for paying relatively low tuition, is one way to address this problem. Currently U.S. There are nine universities in the U.S. that meet the federal requirements required to be designated as working colleges.
Berea College president Lyle Roelofs said he stopped charging tuition in 1892, when the then-president saw that students would study for a year or two, before running out of funds and having to start saving again. returned home for
“He, first of all, said that every student going to Beria College would also work in the college so that they would have an income from it, but he also said that they would not pay tuition, I would fundraise with the wealthy in other parts. country to support this cause,” Roelofs said.
Both the College of the Ozarks and Berea College rely on a stream of non-tuition funding to advance the work college model. This includes a mix of continuing funding from private donations, Pell grants, and huge endowments.
Beria’s $1.6 billion endowment covers nearly three-quarters of the operating expenses of the college for its approximately 1,600 students. The College of the Ozarks has an endowment of just over half a billion dollars; It has the highest endowment-per-student ratio in the country.
Relying on this type of funding limits the number of students that can be enrolled each year and can make schools particularly vulnerable to changes in the economy.
Roulofs said, “If we had an extended period, let’s say, 10 years of no real gains in the financial markets, that would really start to hurt because if we continue to educate the same number of students our The cost will go up.”
Officials say work college programs not only make college affordable for students from low-income families — the median family income for a Beria student is less than $30,000 — but also teach them marketable skills and help them to take part in the campus community. invests.
,[The] The work program is holistic, it does a great job of preparing students for their business outside of school,” said Sawyer Nichols, a senior who currently works in the College of the Ozarks’ public relations office.
Nichols said an internship he found through school helped him land a job with a digital marketing firm after graduation, which is an example of how work helps college graduates break the cycle of poverty. can be installed on a path in the direction of.
U.S. News & World Report recently named the College of the Ozarks as the number one school for social mobility among regional colleges in the Midwest, a ranking created by evaluating the graduation rates of Pell Grant-awarded students. Berea College ranked sixth for social mobility in the magazine’s ranking of national liberal arts colleges. Both schools boast graduation rates that are well above the midpoint of four-year schools.
Meanwhile, federal government figures show that the average annual cost—which includes living expenses—is just $7,195 at the College of the Ozarks and $5,222 at Berea College, with $19,534 under the midpoint for four-year schools.
College of the Ozarks students work to make up for what they pay in tuition; Beria College also pays its students for their labor, which allows them to put money toward room and board.
When asked how the work college model could be replicated more widely, Cizek stressed that it would take time.
“It is not an easy thing, it cannot happen overnight. We have made it in 100 years. It takes a lot of money to do what we do and also requires a culture that thrives on hard work,” he said.
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