proud of my alma mater

I’m Proud of My Alma Mater for Getting Ranked “Lowest Return on Investment”

proud of my alma mater

Saturday, Ozark Christian College was ranked as the number 9 college “not worth the money” by Business Insider. I couldn’t be prouder. No, that’s not sarcasm – I’m beaming as I write and I’m proud of my alma mater.

See this kind of thing puts my little Alma Mater on the map while drafting up a stark contrast against those other 12 colleges Business Insider deemed “worthless.” At Ozark, they teach things like “who we teach you to love is more important than what we teach you to know.” The goal of the college has never been high-profit careers, and in an age plagued by greedy banks and out-of-control stock markets, that’s a beautiful thing.

proud of my alma materAs Seth Godin taught us in Linchpin, it’s the old forms of capitalism and communism that ask, “how much will we make?” The New Creatives, on the other hand, ask “how much do we care?” The latter measures the amount of humanity and excellence brought to the table. That in mind, Ozark has always taught us to do things well and to do them with great love.

When the ’08 crash kick-started the “Great Recession,” Ozark already boasted hundreds of alumni who served in some of the poorest nations on the planet, alumni that stand in solidarity with the poor. Countries like Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, and Haiti know nothing but constant recession year-in, year-out. While Wall Street whined about profit-loss, Ozark alumni cared for the poor.

Proud of my alma mater for lowest return?

This is the college where, during one chapel, I remember Dr. Mark Moore (University of Wales) requesting poverty relief for D.R. Congo. “I want you to go back to your dorms, back to your apartments and imagine a Congolese orphan or former child soldier standing next to you. And then I want you to grab anything that’s worthless compared to a fresh set of clothes or a meal and bring it back to give away.” The chapel stage that day filled to brimming with televisions, iPhones, computers, rare commentary sets – the list goes on – that were all sold to raise funds. This is the college whose alumni started refuge houses for sex-trafficked girls before that kind of thing came into vogue. This is the college whose grads were first on the ground during the Joplin tornado.

This is a college of world-changers.

proud of my alma materEven the men in my dorm who grew up to become graphic designers, film makers, storytellers, and audio engineers all excel in their fields. Guess what? Ozark doesn’t teach a single class in any of those areas. We Americans live in a culture that offers transitive education – you do this task, you perform this skill. That’s not working out so well for us, is it? In the middle of a transitive culture, Ozark offers an intransitive education – learn to think for yourself, speak for yourself, write for yourself. You don’t perform tasks at Ozark. You bloom. Every class features some piece of logic, rhetoric, or grammar that accelerates the maturity of her students. While other universities raise students up for now non-existent factories, Ozark expands minds and hearts so her students can create and enrich humanity in whatever context they find themselves. It’s a school unconcerned with the bottom line, because it digs toward a deeper bottom line…

“The end then of Learning is to repair the ruines of our first Parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the neerest by possessing our souls of true vertue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.

– John Milton, “Of Education”

My friend Stephen responded to the survey with W.E.B. DuBois:

“Whither, then, is the new-world quest of Goodness and Beauty and Truth gone glimmering? Must this, and that fair flower of Freedom which, despite the jeers of latter-day striplings, sprung from our fathers’ blood, must that too degenerate into a dusty quest of gold?
…the true college will ever have one goal — not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes.”

If learning how to sell everything I have and give to the poor, to walk the second mile, to love my enemies and neighbors, to put a tornado-devastated city back together piece-by-piece is “unprofitable,” then I don’t know if I ever want to make a profit again. That in mind, I suppose Mother Theresa’s work among poor lepers was “unprofitable.” Martin Luther King Jr.’s work among poor African Americans was “unprofitable.” Francis of Assisi’s peacemaking work among poor Europeans during the crusades was “unprofitable.” Ozark’s a school that follows a homeless, crucified savior who gave himself for everyone else. Profitability’s not an A-priotity. Nor a-priori. Ozark’s a school of alumni that keep founding non-profit organizations. They care more about observations and experiences that exegete the human condition and invent workable solutions than about profit.

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In an academic climate where students will most certainly enslave themselves under the tyranny of near-unrepayable debt, Ozark remains the only college I would choose for a master. If they are “unprofitable,” it’s only because they choose to work in the framework of a broken system where American banks get a hall-pass to solicit ignorant freshmen and lobby for jacked-up tuition prices. We need more schools willing to crawl down into the mud and offer sanity, more schools that care about enabling their students to learn and mature rather than to take the next class. Open courseware’s a good start, but we need more ideas, and good ideas come from good-idea cultures. Ozark’s unprofitable by an outer association, but not an inner culture. If our education system’s broken, then Ozark’s one of the few schools mending it: they refuse to worry about profit and maintain the lowest costs compared to her peers, all while driving her students toward sacrificial generosity.

And no, I don’t work for the college. I’m just one more graduate who passionately cares for the work of the school.

As for the survey, basic statistics theory asks this question first: what are the demographics of this study? How big was the sample size? A bit of digging revealed that only 31 people filled out this survey (thanks, Troy).

I don’t know if they will – I’m just some no-name recent grad – but if my fellow alumni choose to pass this post around, I guarantee we can easily get over 31 grads who think the Ozark experience was well worth every penny, interest included.

If you read this and you stand for, in, with, or by Ozark – just comment below with a simple “worth it.” You might also add where you serve, your age, your chosen profession, your degree, or a story about how Ozark influenced your life for the better.


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PS> UPDATE (5.10.13) :: For those who choose to tweet this, I believe they’re using #WorthIt


  1. Worth it. I got a bachelor in Theology: Preaching. I met a financial guru while at the college (that offers no classes in finance) and learned how to get debt-free and invest.

    I was debt-free the year after I graduated and had an investment portfolio that looked great for an obscure, 23-year-old freelance writer.

    I’d go on, but my experience was worth it.

  2. This made me cry! Of course, everything makes me cry these days…God is chiseling “me” out of me slowly. I work in corrections. I went to Ozark Christian College with the goal of becoming a missionary. I’m not stupendously intelligent, so OCC was difficult for me from a collegiate standpoint. But, I passed. And even though my trajectory went further away than I could have ever imagined, I show Jesus in my consistency, grace (which is is quite dodgy in Corrections, let me tell you), and silent prayers for the folks I deal with on a daily basis. Ozark Christian College didn’t teach me how to handcuff, or how to de-escalate someone who is irate. OCC taught me to love people, for we are conduits to God’s grace and love, “as if God Himself were making His plea through US.”

    1. Thanks Becca. You rock and I’m so glad I met you there and got to sing songs with that group of twenty or so accoustic-guitar-armed mucisians (guitarmy?) down by Dennis. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Worth it. Life always teaches more lessons than a class or degree. But the atmosphere of family where professors wanted to be called Brother rather than a fancy title of Dr. And where humility and service and faithfulness was desired more than a perfect GPA.

  4. Worth it. Currently in France. Have an M.A. in Historical Theology from St. Louis University (where, incidentally, the head of the M.A. program there disagreed with the article saying “some the best students I’ve ever had came from there [OCC]. They must be doing something right.”). Chosen profession: professor of theology (someday!), theologian for the Church.

  5. Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your perspective and I think attending Ozark Christian College was a great decision. Any critical perspective I have of OCC is only from ground on which OCC taught me to stand. I am thankful I attended.

    I will add, however, that OCC and those of us that love it cannot be content to merely say something along the lines of, “oh, well we know it isn’t about the money so this isn’t relevant.” We must constantly ask how we can make ministry training of OCC’s caliber affordable considering that students who follow through and get their degrees will enter a relatively low paying career field with lots of debt. Of course, we know that this isn’t just OCC’s problem– it is a problem, in greater or lesser form, in most college education, ministry training or otherwise. I hope that, while we recognize that ROI is not everything and reaffirm that we did not get into this for the money, that we can attempt to find ways to make this type of training more accessible for a more affordable rate so that we are not enrolling 18 year-olds in a program in which they will often graduate with over 30 thousand dollars of debt. also, If possible, for those who find themselves 2 or more years at OCC realizing that they do not want a career in ministry, I hope OCC can find a way to make more credits transferable towards other institutions. I imagine this would probably involve regional accreditation, which i believe they are already talking about. I know that OCC has these things on their radar and are working hard to both equip people for ministry while caring for their students financially. I have no doubt that they will move in the right direction out of both desire and necessity.

    I hope that this piece ranking OCC # 9 will spark the types of discussions that are necessary to grow and that we would never be blinded by bitterness towards our Alma Mater or blind support that ignores its shortcomings. I hope that we can, in all things, continue to support them in their mission by being actively engaged in the solution 🙂 I am a better human being because I went to Ozark Christian College and I would recommend it for those who are seriously interested in ministry. I would attend it again.

    1. Well said, Tom, and points I would probably have made in another post if they didn’t get brought up here — so great stuff there.

      We do need to figure out some workable solution for the future. Personally? I’d love to create a full-ride program for under funded students — not even necessarily the “best and the brightest,” but the ones who model servanthood the best.

      Of course that takes HUGE funding so some of us are going to have to break beyond the pack either personally or corporately to generate that kind of program, but that’d be awesome.

      We should also look into more open courseware like brother Moore and ICR and Shane put out.

      Other ideas?

  6. I’m not an alumni but I work here and I see CHANGED LIVES!!! What else matters? The education you can get here is priceless!!!!

  7. So worth it! Serving in Cambodia with a ministry that is offering care and healing to young girls who have been sexually abused and exploited through the evil that is human trafficking. Wouldn’t trade my time at Ozark for a million bucks!

  8. Worth it! Of course I wouldn’t have earned my degree here and continue to work here for 37 years and counting! It’s not about the size of the paycheck, it’s about the souls that go with us to an eternity in heaven! Maranatha, come quickly, Jesus.

  9. Definitely worth. I graduated in 1985 with a Bachelors in Music Ministry. Never did much music after that, but was lead into a 20+ year in hospice care. Nothing could have prepared for that the way the environment at Ozark did. Now I’m working in retail, but still ministering to people every single day. And encouraging my first grandchild to attend at least one year. Can’t imagine a better beginning to whatever life comes her way after that. Great response. Thanks for writing it.

    1. Thanks, Ginger. Glad you stopped by and so glad it was worth it for you! Kiddo does hospice care these days and escorting people through the threshold of death and dying is something that terrifies most Americans. So glad you did that and take great care of people in your retail environment.

      Awesome stuff.

  10. Wow! Evidently I didn’t pay attention in English class as evidenced by my last post. (In my defense, I didn’t proof read and was interrupted at least three times while trying to type!

  11. Worth it. Although not an alum, I am one from sister college St. Louis Christian. My career has nothing to do with my education background. However, the “intransitive” education has far surpassed what I may have learned (or experienced) would I have studied in my current field.

    Great article, research, and challenge. Certainly puts values into perspective.

    How about a study of the worst collegiate ROI on character and worldview development?

    1. Thanks, William. Yeah that’d be an awesome study, wouldn’t it? Worst ROI on integrity and business ethics…. a few corporations come to mind….

  12. Totally worth both degrees. I have accepted the calling of youth ministry in a very amazing area of Missouri. I’m in McDonald county. Thanks for putting to words what I couldn’t lance.

  13. WORTH IT!
    Spent time working for Rapha House serving those rescued out sex trafficking (who could CARE LESS what degree I have, but rather focused on the fact that I cared enough to help, listen and love them), and I now serving those in a sexual crisis in Joplin, MO.
    Thanks Lance!

  14. My dad once told me that no one could ever take away anything I learned at Ozark. He paid for my schooling there (1974-79) because he thought I deserved the best education. I am proud to be an Ozark Alum and I say–totally WORTH IT!!!

  15. worth it!! I am living here in Joplin and actually working in the Admissions Department to help students get enrolled! Thanks for these thoughts!

  16. Absolutely worth it!!

    I’m a 2006 alum with a Bachelor of Christian Education. It has allowed me to teach in private schools, and I just received a Master of English Education. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the past year. Is that a good “return on investment”? Yes! My classes on development and education taught me so much about how my 10-month old learns best right now. My Bible classes have built a better foundation of faith and knowledge for me to pass on to my son. I never went to Ozark, worked in ministry, or became a teacher for the money! I did so because I love it and there are so many things in this world that you can’t attach a dollar sign to!

  17. Worth it. I’m 26 and serve as a Campus Minister at Missouri State University. OCC helped lay the foundation I’ve been building upon ever since.

  18. Absolutely Worth It!! Kevin Huston, 30, Class of 2004, BTh and BBL, Campus Minister at the University of South Carolina, if it weren’t for the likes of Dave Smith, Mark Moore, and Mark Scott, our little campus ministry (The Shack Campus Ministry) would just be pursuing the status quo in campus ministry. But we’re hoping that in the next 3 years we can expand from USC to add campus houses at College of Charleston and Clemson and go from trying to reach 35,000 college students in South Carolina to trying to affect close to 75,000 college/university students in South Carolina for Jesus!
    Thanks Lance for your article and passion!

  19. “If you are in ministry for the money then you are NOT in ministry” Mom Bare, Dorm Parent at Williamson Hal, OCC

  20. Not an alum, but I know OCC is with it because of the impact every friend and OCC grad I know has made on the world. Even friends who don’t go to OCC but spend time in and round the campus and with other OCC students have their lives deepened in strong and meaningful way.
    Lancelot, great words as usual, my friend.

  21. I wouldn’t be the man that I am today if it weren’t for OCC. And I wouldn’t be serving in a young church plant reaching many people for Jesus if it were not for my education that taught me to see people as people created by God, who is longing to redeem them. Love my alma mater. Great article and defense!

  22. I didn’t attend Ozark, but have certainly been a great witness to its’ affect on my home town. I know its’ not a perfect school… I’ve heard plenty of critique and sarcasm…but I know its’ heart is in the right place, and for me, having a heart in the first place is what counts.

    The folks that have come out of this school have gone on to do some amazing things. I know many insanely talented and extremely passionate and world-changing individuals who gained a great deal just from having been there. There’s many a joke floating around town about ‘nieve Ozark students’, but there’s also an unspoken respect for the genuineness and sheer Christ-driven force that those students create in this town and far beyond it.

    worth it.

    1. Thanks for the honesty, Mark. This kind of compliment carries the most weight, in my opinion.

      And as always, thanks for stopping by.

      ( Hey everyone else! The inventor and DP of Cold Brewed just stopped by! I’m flattered! )

  23. WORTH IT! As a child of an OCC professor, I basically grew up on campus. I loved the school for years before I ever took one class, but my experience there became the paradigm by which I evaluate the quality and lasting efficacy of any educational experience. Thanks, Lance, for putting what so many felt into words.

  24. Worth it! I only attended one year but I still feel today it was one of the best years of my life. I work with two ministries Turning Point DFW and Bibles for Tarrant County Inmates as well as being a wife and mother of three wonderful children. I have lifelong friends who went there and feel God blessed me with my experiences there

    1. Wow. Thanks so much for raising awesome kids and taking great care of those in prison. As a guy that had a good friend in prison recently, I know how important that kind of care can be.

      Thanks for stopping by, Sara.

  25. worth it. Bachelor of Biblical Literature from OCC in 19997. Worked for Christ In Youth then went on to earn a Master of Divinity at Lincoln Christian Seminary (2006). Worked in full time worship ministry and am now teaching at one of OCC’s sister schools, Manhattan Christian College. I completed my Doctorate in Worship Studies in 2012 and plan to continue helping to train Christian leaders for as long as God allows.

    1. Man, you’re from the future?! Guys! Someone from the future loves OCC!

      Sorry, I know that was a typo — I’m not making fun of you, I just thought it’d be funny if someone came back from the future to tell us all that OCC’s still awesome in the year 20,000. Reminds me about Harvard’s and Yale’s roots as Christian colleges…

      In any case, thanks so much for stopping by and for working at Manhattan — they need some love. Where are you getting your Doctorate?

  26. So very worth it!!! My husband and I both attended OCC in the early 80’s – he is a 1985 graduate and now serves on the board of trustees for the college. We’ve been in the ministry for 30 years and treasure what OCC (then OBC) taught us about loving and serving the Lord! Our children both attended OCC and are world changers. Our daughter will fly home next week from Japan, where she is serving with a new church plant, to attend her OCC graduation. We can’t even put into words what God has taught us through OCC, but the investment they made in our family and our investment in OCC has incredible eternal value!

  27. worth it. Just completed a Master of Divinity at Emmanuel Christian Seminary and will begin a PhD in historical theology at St. Louis University this fall with the goal of serving the church through teaching and writing theology.

    I do agree with Tom Tatterfield above. I hope this sparks an important conversation that ultimately helps the school continue to improve.

    1. Thanks, Stephen. And thanks for your superior quote. It seems every time you quote somebody, it sticks in my mind and I return to it as a well. I keep quoting your reference to baptism as “doubling as a form of execution” and to Moltman’s “delving deeper into our own traditions.” Great stuff.

      And yes, to second the second of the motion — Tom’s words SHOULD be heeded in the midst of all of this.

  28. Worth it!!!! As your former youth pastor and current pastor in Louisville I couldn’t say I’m more proud of who you have become. From a high school student who could barely put an understandable thought together to a sharp young man who has truly spent time with Jesus. Love ya Lance!!

    1. Thanks, James. You’re a good man and the athlete that this creative is indebted to for pushing him toward OCC when he wanted to go to Northwest for acting. Haven’t regretted the decision at all — in fact, I’d argue I have more opportunities BECAUSE I chose Ozark over acting.

      Love you too bro. Praying for the satellite campus.

    2. By the way, James, it’s SO PERFECT that your comment is the 31st — which was the number I was shooting for to match survey demographic.

      SO perfect.

  29. My mom is an Ozark Bible College alum (so you get an idea that she graduated a while ago). She loved it. I just wanted to share a link to a great ministry to teens that not a lot of people know about, but OCC grads who are interested in working in ministry may like to check out. You don’t have to be “Baptist” to work here. We work for modest salaries but great benefits. (Some Ministry Team members actually serve as full-time volunteers) Here is the link to the job openings page:

  30. Worth it! I graduated with a Bachelor of Music Ministry. I am 39 (still hanging on to my 30s) and have served in worship ministry for 15 years with a heart for helping to equip smaller churches. I currently serve as a pastor at a new church we started in 2010 in Olathe, KS. The lessons I learned at OCC laid the groundwork to understand people and the heart of God for people. With that basis I have been privileged to serve our city of nearly 130,000 people as a City Planning Commissioner and recently traveled to Chicago representing our city. I am so grateful for OCC’s investment in me so I can invest in the Kingdom around me every day.

  31. Worth it. Proud OCC alum, now serving and working in Cincinnati, OH as an American Sign Language interpreter.

  32. worth it!!! Within 4 years we were debt free from any college student loans- and now church planting in NY with hopes to travel internationally within the next couple years! BA in Intercultural Studies and Biblical Lit.

  33. I don’t think it was worth it, but my issues are with the accreditation, not the education.

    1. Thanks for offering your dissenting opinion, Sam. Good to get some variety in here, haha.

      It might encourage you to know that they not only have national accreditation but are working on regional accreditation that will be completed in a few short years.

      Between that and alumni who have graduated from Yale, SLU, University of Edinburgh, U of Wales, etc. — there are opportunities to branch out if you’re interested.

      In other words your degree can lead to all sorts of places if you’d like.

  34. Worth it. I just have an associate’s degree but I currently work at CIY and would have never had that chance without coming here.. heaven’s I wouldn’t be here with OCC b/c my parents probably would not have met, being my mom was from here and my dad was from Ohio. The price can be steep financially but I wouldn’t trade my lifelong friends and great education for anything.

    1. Thanks, Rachel. As for the steep price, I’d point to Tom and Stephen’s comments.

      I should mention that CIY was also founded by a grad and sustained primarily by grads.

  35. Worth it!!! My name is Becky King. I am a Kindergarten teacher in Webb City MO and I started my Education at OCC. I know that God used OCC in my life to prepare me for my career and I would not change my choice of attending OCC for a second! My husband Isaac king is also an OCC grad and he is a full time youth pastor now! We are blessed by our education from OCC daily! Thanks Lance!

  36. I believe it was very much worth it and would have done it again. Could things have been better with the BTH and BBL programs I took? Yes. But it was still very much worth it and I have no problem at all seeing my kids pursue OCC. As a college of higher learning . . . they’ve kept to their purpose and I’m proud of that.

    1. Thanks, Steve. Out of curiosity: what would you have changed about your program of choice? That information might be helpful if any administration or curriculum committee personnel sneak over this way…

      And thanks for your honesty, bro.

    2. My response to your question might not be too popular, especially with incoming freshman, but I’d gear it actually more toward something like West Point or the Naval Academy. More “life intentionality” in addition to simple curriculum. More direct mentorship.

  37. Absolutely worth it! I’m currently a ministry wife and stay at home mom in SE Iowa, and I mentor teenage girls during my spare time.

  38. i didn’t go to ozark but i spent a summer working along ozark students and alumni. i was jealous of you all who got to study how to share God’s love and so impressed by your commitment to changing the world for the better!

  39. Absolutely. My husband and I graduated from OCC. My husband ministers in Fredonia, KS. We have seven children, the oldest of whom is now at OCC as a freshman. Our oldest daughter plans to follow him there in another year. I wouldn’t want to send them anywhere else and am so thankful they are choosing OCC. They see the big picture. They see eternity.

  40. I am very proud to both work at Ozark and to have graduated from Ozark. But I am blessed that you have been gifted to be able to articulate the thoughts of so many. Thanks Lance!

    1. Well thank you, Mary. And THANKS for that AWESOME production of “Singin’ in the Rain.” Tell Colby that rain machine was incredible. Seriously, that was so so so much fun and has been Tara’s favorite for years.

      Thank YOU!

  41. I think Ozark is getting it right. Some “journalist” who makes his living taking a small, random survey, and writes an article about ” the lowest return on investment colleges” needs to go out and get a REAL job. He would do better to READ articles instead of WRITE them. I have friends who are OCC alumni…………ALL QUALITY PEOPLE.

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