If the thought of paying astronomical prices for a college education has you a little worried about your financial situation, you’re not alone.
But, instead of going into debt, perhaps you should consider one of the nation’s work colleges.
What exactly is a work college, anyway?
It's a school that provides a work program in addition to an academic program, often integrating the two, giving either free tuition or a tuition credit to students who participate in the work program. Some schools require that the students participate in the work program, while others give students the option.
We’ve detailed the nation’s top work colleges below, with information compiled from Workcolleges.org
Alice Lloyd College
Having the distinction as one of the few colleges that has never turned a student away because of their inability to pay for tuition, this Pippa Passes, Kentucky school captures the heart of students looking for a great education and the beauty of mountain life.
The liberal arts college integrates a Student Work Program in with its curriculum as a learning experience, to teach responsible leadership, self-discipline and self-reliance. It also makes free tuition possible for enrolled students.
The program requires the full-time students to work a minimum of ten hours weekly, equating to a total of 160 hours per semester, though some students pay qualify to work 240 hours per semester depending on financial need.
The college offers 15 majors and 9 minors and has been ranked as a “Top Tier College” for its academic quality by U.S. News and World Report.
Learn more about Alice Lloyd College
Founded in 1855, Berea College, is located in Berea, Kentucky. The college emphasizes a focus on diversity. In fact, one in three enrolled students represents an ethnic minority.
Additionally, the school charges no tuition and focuses on Christian character building, which is reflected within the school’s motto, “God has made of one blood of all peoples of the Earth.”
The school also implements a Student Labor Program, which is integrated into the educational experience of all of its enrolled students.
According to the college, one of their commitments is, “To provide for all students through the Labor Program experiences for learning and serving in the community and to demonstrate that labor, mental and manual, has dignity as well as utility.”
Students are expected to work 10-15 hours per week in addition to taking a full-time academic course load.
The college offers 32 majors of study leading to either Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees.
Learn more about Berea College
This small liberal arts college, located in Carlinville, Illinois, boasts a democratic student-managed work program that allows college to become a reality for many students who may not have otherwise been able to afford it.
Through the program, students gain a sense of community, skills and habits that translate to a successful career after college, individual responsibility and it, of course, reduces college costs. Students have also helped to construct the majority of the buildings on the college’s campus.
The work program requires that students work 160 hours per semester, or an average of ten hours per week minimum requirement, up to 320 hours per semester, or 20 hours per week maximum.
Offering more than 40 majors, options for minors as well as multiple special opportunities such as study abroad, Blackburn College provides students with the complete college experience.
Learn more about Blackburn College
College of the Ozarks
Dubbed “Hard Work U” by the Wall Street Journal, in Point Lookout, Missouri, offers 34 degree programs and a student to faculty ratio of 13:1.
The school accepts around 1,300 students that demonstrate financial need and the school does not require that students pay tuition. In fact, no federal or state loans are given.
Instead, students must work for their education within the school’s Work Education Program. That “work scholarship,” combined with private scholarships and grants pays for all the students to attend the school free of charge.
Students work 15 hours per week during the school year and 40 hours per week while school isn't in session, totaling 280 hours each semester.
The fully accredited school offers more than 40 majors and 36 minors as well as ten pre-professional programs in additional to special opportunities such as study abroad and exchange programs.
Learn more about College of the Ozarks
Originally founded in 1975 as a training center for young missionaries, this college in Springdale, Arkansas is an exceptionally small and close-knit Christian campus.
The liberal arts college focuses on academic excellence, work ethic and Christian service. The college is popular among students who have previously been home-schooled or who have attended private schools.
The school offers a tuition credit through its Work Learning Program. All students who participate within the program are eligible and students are able to credit the actual amount of money they earn per hour, generally around $2,475 per semester, towards the cost of their tuition.
Nearly 30 percent of Ecclesia College graduates achieve a 4.0 and nearly all graduates achieve a 3.5 GPA or above.
Learn more about Ecclesia College
This small, private liberal arts college is located in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. The curriculum at Sterling is environmentally focused and students find that sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint becomes a way of life.
The “Sterling Experience” combines hands-on practice with academic knowledge.
All residential students work a minimum of 80 hours per semester within the school’s Work-Learning-Service program. The program’s focus is to allow students to contribute to the day-to-day functions of the college. The school operates as a community in which each student plays an integral role, teaching students what it means to be productive members of society.
The school operates year round and, as a result, many students complete their undergraduate education in less than four years saving both time and money.
The college also offers special opportunities including global studies, experiential learning and independent studies.
Learn more about Sterling College
Warren Wilson College
Warren Wilson College is known as one of the most unique in the nation. Located in Swannanoa, North Carolina, the school’s educational program, the Triad, is organized into three intertwined principles that are codependent on one another for the student’s complete educational experience.
The Triad consists of the following: a liberal arts academic education, a campus-wide work program, a community service. Additionally, sustainability ethic and cross-cultural understanding are also infused within the Triad.
Students work 15 hours per week within the school’s Work Program in exchange for a $3,480 tuition credit.
Additionally, students must complete a total of 100 community service hours over the course of four years, 25 of which must be earned through an “extended project” related to a single area.
The school offers 46 majors, 26 minors as well as special programs of study. The school also offers plenty of study abroad opportunities and internships.
Learn more about Warren Wilson College