A small college in Missouri has come up with a surprisingly simple solution to the student loan crisis: it will no longer accept students who take out loans to pay for tuition. Instead, for the 90 percent of its students who require some form of financial aid, the college offers students a number of on-campus work opportunities. Rather than cash, students earn credits for tuition. Reuters has more:
“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.” The school years ago stopped taking students who wanted to get public loans.At College of the Ozarks, nicknamed Hard Work U, students work across campus in cafeteria, housing, maintenance, landscaping, agricultural and other jobs. The school has working hog and cattle farms, gardens, lodging and a restaurant.Davis said the school will create more work opportunities for students who have depended on loans. They can also get jobs off-campus in summer to save up money, he said. The school will waive its $25 weekly summer dorm fee for students who work in Branson, he said.
The hope is that this will be enough for most students to forgo student loans. For those who still need more help, the school will accept scholarships and direct aid from the state.This is certainly a radical move, but there are a number of things to praise here. With the student loan crisis escalating, it’s good to see a college considering students’ long-term interests. They’ll have to work hard for their education, but won’t graduate under a crushing debt burden like many of their peers. Plus, they’re not just staffing libraries in a typical work-study program; they’re getting something closer to the real-world work experience that so many college grads lack.Student loans are not always a bad thing, but a trillion dollars in outstanding student debt, much of it in arrears, suggests that the pendulum needs to swing back toward something more pay-as-you-go. Ultimately costs at many colleges need to come down, but higher ed needs more experiments like this one to figure out what changes are needed in the years to come.