May 19 2014

Hard Work U: Getting an Education without Going into Debt

Charlotte Hays

Patrice’s post this morning on college graduates who have lower net worth because of college loan debt reminded me that I meant to mention Stephen Moore’s Wall Street Journal column on the College of the Ozarks, a school from which graduates emerge debt free.

“What Hard Work U Can Teach Elite Schools” is about how students at the College of the Ozarks acquire degrees without debt:

At this college the tuition is nowhere near the $150,000 to $200,000 for a four-year degree that the elite top-tier universities are charging. 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—just a few miles from Branson, a popular tourist destination—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.

The college was founded in 1906. Expenses to operate the college are paid out of a $400 million endowment. Nearly 90 percent of Ozarks grads get jobs quickly upon graduation.

Commencement speakers have included George W. Bush, Lady Margaret Thatcher, Tom Brokaw and Norman Schwarzkopf. None have sparked campus protests.

Moore writes:

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? Many of the privileged class of kids who attend Dartmouth or Stanford or Wesleyan would no doubt call it a violation of their human rights.

Others are too busy holding rallies for unisex bathrooms, reparations for slavery and an end to fossil fuels to work while in school. As the humorist P.J. O'Rourke once wrote: "Everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to do the dishes."

Incidentally, there was another interesting tidbit about pricey college diplomas out today. Seems that the colleges with the highest-paid presidents are the same ones at which student indebtedness and part-time adjunct faculty grew fastest.

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