On April 10, classes at Ouachita will continue as usual, but the day is anything but ordinary: It is Tuition Freedom Day. A project of the Ouachita annual fund, this day falls approximately 80 percent through the academic school year and symbolizes the fact that Ouachita students’ annual tuition, fees, room and board cover only 80 percent of the actual cost to operate the university.
“For the rest of the year, we’re indebted to our donors who provide funding to complete the semester,” said Emily Merryman, director of development operations and annual giving. “In order to remain competitive as a private, evangelical higher education institution, the other 20 percent must come from another source. That’s where the Annual Fund comes in.”
Lindsey Fowler, a senior political science major from Arkadelphia, Ark, and the Student Senate Tiger for Life committee chair, has worked closely with Merryman in this endeavor.
“Tuition Freedom Day affects every student on Ouachita’s campus, whether or not they’ve received an OBU scholarship,” Fowler said. “From this point until graduation, everything, even electricity, is paid for with donor money.”
Tuition Freedom Day seeks to raise campus awareness as well as campus gratitude toward the role that Ouachita alumni continue to play long after they have graduated.
“It’s a good day to just look around campus and know that you’re part of a larger, very generous community,” Merryman said. “It gives me great joy and satisfaction to see that connection illustrated so vividly. The idea is that an entire community of alumni who loved their Ouachita experience is able to give back and then be thanked by the very students they support. “
Though the day is symbolic, the Development Office staff encourage students to express their gratitude to alumni in a tangible way. During lunch times on April 10, tables will be set up in the Ouachita Commons and Evans Student Center where students can stop by and write thank-you notes to be mailed to alumni. This small gesture speaks volumes to the Ouachita community.
“Being grateful is free!” Merryman said. “Well, it costs 48 cents, but the Development Office can pick up the tab for that.”
Gratitude doesn’t stop with a thank-you note. Merryman said she hopes that grateful students will become generous alumni.
“It’s important that students understand how critical it is to give back to Ouachita after graduation,” she said. “Just as others gave so that they could experience Ouachita, there will be a whole new class that deserves the same.”
For more information about Tuition Freedom Day and the annual fund, contact Emily Merryman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870)-245-4273.
By Mary Castleman