Friends who had returned from Branson just the week before we went urged us to make reservations to dine at the Dobyns Dining Room in Keeter Center of College of the Ozarks. Their description encouraged us to call immediately to reserve a table for dinner.College of the Ozarks is known as “Hard Work U” for good reason. Students who attend there do not pay tuition, only room and board. Tuition is covered by their hard work. Each student works 15 hours a week at a campus job. This might be cooking in the kitchen, serving guests, working in the onsite dairy or the garden, etc.
Food served in the Dobyns Dining Room is cooked fresh with local ingredients from the college grounds. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and topped it off with an incredible Coconut Cream Bread Pudding, large enough to be shared and good enough to have in spite of a diet. Our waiter was excellent and very cordial, willing to answer lots of questions about the college.
Several days later we were nearby the college at noontime, so we stopped in for lunch. We had to wait about 20 minutes, but once again it was definitely worth it. While waiting, we browsed through the interesting displays of historical equipment once used there, such as the canning machine for the locally-grown green beans. There are also museum-quality World War II displays, including an actual Army jeep.
The Keeter Center also serves as a conference center, offering small meeting rooms to space for large events. Mabee Lodge provides beautiful lodging from rooms to suites. All of them include normal amenities plus fireplaces, balconies and high-speed Internet.
College of the Ozarks offers degrees in 44 academic areas. It has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report among the best of liberal arts colleges since 1989. Its stated purpose is “To provide a Christian education, especially for those found worthy, but who are without sufficient means to procure such training.” One of our waiters expressed the hope that he will be able to pursue a graduate degree and work in mission fields after he leaves College of the Ozarks; and our waitress at lunch is pursuing a degree in elementary education and will be doing her student teaching in the fall. College of the Ozarks has given each of them the opportunity to achieve their goals.
Going to college without having to pay tuition is an interesting concept, one with considerable merit. The campus is nice and the Keeter Center is exceptional. As we dined on wonderful meals there, we gained a quick education taught by the charm and hard work of the students.