College of the Ozarks
A Different Approach to Education

Point Lookout, MO

March 30, 2000

With a week of visiting Branson Missouri behind us, and all the shows we wanted to see already in our memory, we began to wonder what else the area of middle America had to offer the traveler. Just a few miles away in Point Lookout was the College of the Ozarks which housed a small museum. As we drove onto the grounds, it was obvious that someone had gone to great pains to create a beautifully landscaped campus center, complete with a lake which is home to a gorgeous white swan, and row after row of tulips that were just starting to open. The rolling grass lawns were immaculate, and not so much as a piece of paper could be found lying about anywhere on the ground. We stopped by the administration building where we met Camille Howell, Director of Public Relations. Generally, I prefer to avoid organizations of learning, where getting through the often committee-led red tape, required to get permission to write a story, usually takes up most of the time available for the story. What a delight it was to find that after a proper review of our intentions, we got permission to go and photograph any where we wanted, with very few restrictions. It was during this initial conversation with Camille, that I began to understand that the College of the Ozarks was not a typical small liberal arts college. It is a Christian based fully-accredited four-year college founded by the Reverend James Forsythe in 1906. Although my intent was a story on the museum and the replica of an old grist mill, the college itself and its no-nonsense approach to learning caught me by surprise. The most shocking fact is that no full time student pays a penny of tuition. However, 90% of the students must display a financial need. This leaves the other 10% open for students whose family income technically might be too high but would still be good students. A lot of these slots are occupied by children of alumni because C of O likes to feel if it accomplishes its mission, then their alumni would otherwise be too well off for their children to come to school here. Even room and board is supplied to students who qualify. The second shocker is that every student works a minimum of 15 hours a week, at any of the 80 some odd jobs or industries operated throughout the campus. That is their tuition. The third shocker was found in one of the many brochures I had acquired. Only 14 percent of the people applying for admittance are ever accepted. Those accepted were required to demonstrate financial need, academic ability, sound character and a willingness to work. There are many other unique aspects of the College but I'm off in another direction. As we passed through each of the areas we intended to write about, I couldn't help but notice the effect this approach had on the students. As the sign at the entrance gate proclaimed. "Hard Work U" was evident everywhere. The attitude of students was heartwarming. I haven't seen that many smiles or observed that much joyous comradery before.
Our first stop was at Edwards Mill. This replica of a late 1800's water-powered grist mill brings back much of the Ozark heritage. The mill, which was the brainchild of retired milling expert Bill Cameron, was dedicated on October 7, of 1972. Hubert Edwards, former Chairman of the Dixie-Portland Flour Mills Inc., and his wife, supplied the funding. A fourteen foot waterwheel produces the 15 horsepower required to operate the 30 inch Queen of the South under-runner buhrs which were manufactured over 145 years ago. It was constructed out of 200 year old timbers which had been in three other mills. The Mill operates year round and supplies many of the job requirements for the students. Many products are produced for public sale, and are used by the campus in support of the students. The basement of the mill contains a small collection of tools and is home to the basket weaving industry. Here students gather to create an assortment of lovely creations out of wood strips called splints which are also produced by the students.

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