Kansas City, MO – If you’re a recent high school grad shopping for colleges, you can cross Missouri’s College of the Ozarks off your list if you need a bit of financial assistance to earn your Bachelor’s degree.
The student loan debt crisis in America has everyone from community colleges to the federal government trying to figure out ways to bring down the cost of higher education. Missouri’s College of the Ozarks has a rather pointed solution: Stop accepting potential students who need to take out loans to finance their educations.
College of the Ozarks is a private Christian four-year institution of roughly 1,400 students in a rural location near Branson. According to Roland King, vice president of public affairs at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said that their planned rejection of students who need to take on debt might be a national first.
But (and it’s a big but), College of the Ozarks is already pretty unusual when it comes to tuition.
Nicknamed Hard Work U, College of the Ozarks requires that all students work on campus, and none of them pay tuition in the first place, said Jerry Davis, the school’s president. Roughly 90 percent of every year’s entering class has to demonstrate financial need, and tuition is covered by credits for campus work, along with federal, state, and college scholarships if needed.
“We are basically just trying to look out for the students’ interests,” Davis explained. “Kids nowadays are not very sophisticated with money. Debt is a big problem all over the country.”
Roughly two-thirds of undergraduates leave college with a Bachelor’s degree and about $22,656 in debt. Add graduate school, and the number rises sharply. In total, Americans owe more than $1 trillion in student loans, and the level of delinquency is on the rise.
“This college has a very low percentage of students graduating with debt, but it has come up a little and we just don’t think that is a good idea,” Davis said. “This a work college, not a debt college.”
Davis has also pledged to create more work opportunities for students at the school, and said that he will waive some fees, so long as some conditions are met (like working off-campus, but in Branson).
College of the Ozarks was rated the best for education value among Midwestern regional colleges by the U.S. News and World Report.
Krystal Ericson, a junior at the college, said that she has never needed a loan, and that every student will just have to work, budget, and save more.
“I can see it being a problem for some students,” Ericson said. “Taking away the student loan may cause them to think more carefully about their options. They will have some choices to make.”
Do you think that rejecting students who need financial assistance is a good or bad idea for Missouri’s College of the Ozarks? Should more schools adopt this idea? Why or why not?