One of the biggest concerns anyone who is going to college has is how to pay for it. Scholarships and grants help, but even after the financial aid package is submitted, many students have to acquire government or private loans, resulting in incredible debt after graduation. For students at one Missouri college, the number on the price tag is zero.
“Hard Work U”, better known as College of the Ozarks, is located in Point Lookout, Missouri where around 1,400 students attend free of charge. This is accomplished through a work program in which students are required to work 15 hours per week on campus and two 40 hour week jobs over break. College of the Ozarks also offers an optional summer job program to pay for room and board during the year.
With students’ time split between class and work, not much time is left for recreation, but that doesn’t stop Ozarks students from making noise at sporting events. During basketball season, College of the Ozarks student section gets loud and proud for their team whether they’re home, away or even at the NAIA National Tournament.
“They will bring about 50 kids or so to the national tournament every year we go along with some cheerleaders and the mascot and they get really noisy. A lot noisier than you would think for a small number of students like that,” said George Wilson, College of the Ozarks women’s basketball coach.
Most people assume that the most effective student sections are ones with great numbers like the Cameron Crazies at Duke University, but ask the Lady Bobcat players and that just isn’t the case.
“It’s a big deal for us that our fans get to come every year to support us and go crazy. They bring signs, paint their faces, jump up and down, and get the place rocking. If we’re losing some momentum, they get us going and get us back into the game, it’s a great booster to know you have someone there that has your back,” said Morgan Smith, junior center for the Lady Bobcats. “All season long at away games it always seems like we have more fans there than anyone else ever brings. In times like the national tournament, they’re sometimes the reasons why we win [and] get the victory.”
The students dress up in wigs, have massive amounts of face paint, have some pretty funny costumes and shout clever chants. Along with traditional chants like “de-fense,” some of their more thought out chants are “Take his whistle” when they disagree with a call the official has made, “We are C of O” continually which stands for College of Ozarks and “The U, The What? The U, The What, The U, The What? The HARD WORK U.”
In the first round of the NAIA Division II National Tournament, College of the Ozarks, a No. 1 seed, took on Valley City State University, a No. 8 seed. It was close the whole game, but in the second half, the Tyson Event Center started to rock as the rowdy “Hard Work U” student section went to work screaming and yelling to get their team the victory. Late in the game, the Lady Bobcats finally started to pull away and defeated VCSU 57-51.