by Carolyn Francis
Free and Almost Free College Options
Work Colleges – Work, Learning, Service
There are seven small schools in the Work Colleges Consortium that help students graduate with considerably less college debt than most of their peers. All member colleges help students graduate with limited debt; three are tuition free for qualified students.
Students arrive on campus understanding work will be an integral part of their college experience. Not only does this style of college give students work and life skills, it also creates “buy-in” for students; having a little skin in the game generates appreciation and a sense of accomplishment.
This unusual approach helps students learn a critical balance of study, community service and managed work expectations. Most work positions are limited to 8-15 hours a week with each school tailoring the jobs to the mission and operational needs of the individual school. Administrative and campus support in food services or landscaping are typical entry level posts.
Member Colleges’ work programs provide promising students with a means to earn a college degree while students get opportunities to advance and tailor work positions to meet career goals. It is a win-win for everyone. Work Programs cultivate career-ready qualities like responsibility and work ethic.
Alice Lloyd College – located in Kentucky, ALC charges no tuition for students from its geographic area. The Top College in America for graduating students with the least amount of debt, 95% of ALC graduates are accepted to professional or graduate school.
Berea College – also located in Kentucky. Founded in 1855, Berea was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Berea awards four year tuition scholarships to all its students who otherwise could not afford a high-quality, residential, liberal arts education. The work program has been a part of the Berea for over a century.
Blackburn College – located in Illinois and celebrating its 175th anniversary, Blackburn has had a work program since 1913. Over the years, students have built Blackburn brick by brick. Ten buildings were constructed with the help of student workers.
College of the Ozarks – located in Missouri, C of O is a Christian institution where students work in one of 80 different assignments. The cost of tuition is covered by students work, grants, and scholarships provided by the school. Student work performance grades are included in student records, giving an impressive set of credentials to employers.
Ecclesia College – located in Arkansas, the student motto is “Where Leaders are Learning”. Ecclesia serves students regardless of family resources. Students graduate with character, skills and resumes and with an average debt of $5,938 while national average is $25,250.
Sterling College – the only school not located in the South or Midwest, Sterling is located in a small town in northern Vermont. A small progressive liberal arts school with a focus on environmental issues and grass roots sustainability, they offer majors in Ecology, Environmental Humanities, Outdoor Education, Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems. Students can also design their own major. Some examples include Agroecology, Environmental Justice, Conservation education and International Agriculture and Business. Sterling came to visit DWS last fall and I was personally very impressed. The right student would be very well served by this little school!
Warren Wilson College – located in North Carolina, this school is well known for its strong international and environmental emphasis. The Fiske Guide recognized WWC as one of the “25 Best Buys” among private colleges and universities. In addition to awarding high marks for its academics, social life and affordability, the Fiske Guide honored the College with the highest possible rating for overall quality of student life.
Thanks to workcolleges.org for the above information.
These schools offer students with limited financial means the opportunity to receive a high quality education, life skills and professional growth not found in traditional school settings. While many are located in what we might call remote areas, there is a reason these schools are situated in the areas they are. Assisting an underserved population, these schools were initially designed to help locals receive an education. Many of these alums go on to be leaders in their region. With outreach and growth come new opportunities for students all over the country. While the initial incentive is financial in nature, taking a deeper look will show schools that are invested in providing a world class education.