With the cost of higher education on the rise, graduating debt-free has become increasingly difficult for many students. But a new initiative announced by Williams Baptist University (WBU) could provide students an affordable path to earning a degree while building character along the way.
At a press conference Sept. 16 outside of WBU’s Swaim Administration Building in Walnut Ridge, Ark., WBU President Stan Norman introduced “Williams Works,” a program with the goal of making “an academically excellent, Christ-centered university education affordable for all families — with a real possibility of students graduating debt-free.” Williams Baptist University is affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Analyzing the problem of the exponential cost of higher education, Norman said that WBU’s leadership concluded that the tuition-driven model that has long been the standard for most colleges and universities is simply not as effective as it once was in providing sufficient funding for schools or affordable financial scenarios for students.
“It is no secret that the cost of higher education has become daunting, a burdensome challenge for many students and their families,” Norman said. “This is manifested in student loan debts that hang over the heads of college graduates and weighs heavily upon them at a time when they are attempting to launch their lives and their careers.
“As of today, we are beginning a transition to doing things a new way,” he said. “The new way of doing things is called Williams Works.”
Williams Works, which was approved by WBU’s Board of Trustees Sept. 13, will launch in the Fall 2020 semester. The initial phase of the program will include 40 incoming freshmen, who “are willing to work for their education,” Norman said.
In exchange for working 16 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters at a job assigned by WBU, the students in the program will be compensated in the form of the cost of their education at WBU — including their tuition and fees. Students will also have the opportunity to have their room and board expenses covered through working over the summer.
“Let me be clear; these are real jobs with real responsibilities,” Norman said. “Students selected for Williams Works will need to be willing to work, to develop a serious work ethic, and to be willing to learn how to manage their time well.
“But (for) those who are willing to work,” he noted, “the reward is an affordable, debt-free education at an outstanding Christian university.”
One of the employers of Williams Works students is Eagle Farms, a farm that will be located on WBU’s campus in the current location of the school’s intramural football field.
“Eagle Farms will begin by producing fruits and vegetables,” Norman said. “It will start on about 10 acres of land. We anticipate this farm growing in years to come. With 90 acres of farmable land on our campus, Eagle Farms has plenty of room to grow.”
For more information on Williams Works or to apply to the program, visit williamsbu.edu/williamsworks.