College Of The Ozarks Refuses Students Who Take Out Loans
With the student debt crises reaching critical levels and experts warning of a potential “domino effect” on the US economy, one private college in Missouri, the College of the Ozarks, is taking a different approach to ebbing the growing tide of debt: refuse admittance to students who require loans.
While it may sound impossible and even absurd, the radical idea could work at the College of the Ozarks for one simple reason: the 1,400 student evangelical Christian college does not charge tuition at all.
Dubbed “Hard Work U” by its students, the private college takes in 90% of its students based on financial need, and tuition is then paid through work credits on campus. If necessary for other college expenses, state and federal financial aid or scholarships may be used to supplement the cost. Public student loans, however, had already been removed as a payment option a few years prior.
“We are basically just trying to look out for the students’ interests,” said college president Jerry Davis. “Kids nowadays are not very sophisticated with money. Debt is a big problem all over the country.”
Although loans could be taken previously to help cover the cost of living expenses, which 99 current students now do, the decision to remove this option for students is, according to Davis, a way of ensuring that students leave school with a good education instead of a massive debt load.
“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.”
Student debt has recently become an increasingly pressing matter, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reporting last month that student debt had now reached approximately $1 trillion, while a report by the Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO) found that the average debt load of American college students had risen to “unsustainable” levels, going from $17,233 in 2005 to $27,253 at the end of 2012.
“I don’t like to use the word ‘crisis,’ because it’s a ‘crisis’ that really can’t melt down the same way that the mortgage market did,” said CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman Rohit Chopra. “In fact, a lot of the student loan issues are just going to be a drag on the economy, because young people aren’t going to be able to participate like a generation ago when they’re making very large payments out of their salaries every single month instead of putting it to better use.”
Still, despite the growing need for alternatives to covering the cost of tuition, the College of the Ozarks decision is still raising eyebrows with some simply due to the fact that such a move has never been attempted before. According to Roland King of the National College Association, the move to eliminate all forms of loans as a means of tuition payment would be a national first.
“There isn’t anything that really parallels what they are doing,” said King of the national college association. “Student debt is such a hot issue and they are looking at any way they can to ease the load.”