During my senior year in high school, I took a trip with my family to a small town north of Branson, Missouri to interview at a tiny college in hopes of gaining a free education. The process was incredibly competitive, especially for families like mine who did not meet the federal government’s definition of need (although my family was trying to figure out how to pay for four children in college at one time while running a small business). Alas, College of the Ozarks decided that my sisters and I were not a good fit for their institution. The door to a free education closed behind us and we began the search elsewhere.

Work Colleges like College of the Ozarks continue to be an option for a free (or extremely affordable) education, giving them powerful influence in the higher education sector as student loan debt continues to rise.

Jason Anderson, CPA, CFP®

What makes Work Colleges different from their peers?

As you might infer from the name, Work Colleges incorporate work and service into the curriculum as a way to subsidize the overall cost of education. At least historically, a handful of these colleges (College of the Ozarks, Berea College, and Alice Lloyd College) are free of tuition for qualified students.

What Colleges are Classified as Work Colleges?

There are eight work colleges in the United States. If you are interested in learning more they are listed below. You can also read more in this PBS NewsHour story.

Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, KY
Berea College in Berea, KY
Bethany Global University in Bloomington, MN
Blackburn College in Berea, KY
College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, MO
Paul Quinn College in Dallas, TX
Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, VT
Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC 

(A previous list included Ecclesia College in Springdale, AR, but is no longer listed on the website)

This is just one more way families can pursue alternative paths to lower or eliminate student loan debt, which is now creeping towards $1.8 trillion.

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