Silas House Receives Governors’ Award

Silas House

The following article was originally posted on artscouncil.ky.gov.

Silas House is the recipient of the 2020 Artist Award from Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear as part of the annual Governor’s Award in the Arts.

The Commonwealth’s most prestigious arts awards honor Kentucky individuals, businesses and organizations that make significant contributions to the arts in the state. Governor’s Awards in the Arts recipients exemplify a diversity of accomplishments in all areas of the arts as well as the irreplaceable value of those contributions to the state’s communities, educational environment and economy. The combined achievements and contributions of this year’s esteemed group of recipients demonstrate the many ways that citizens of Kentucky uphold the tradition of creating a rich cultural legacy.

The ceremony will be held on January 26 at 11 a.m. EST and is available to watch on YouTube.

Born in Corbin, Silas House, who was hailed by fellow Kentucky writer Barbara Kingsolver as one of her “favorite writers and human beings,” is a multiple award-winning, New York Times and nationally best-selling novelist.

Continue reading Silas House Receives Governors’ Award

Neil Mecham interviewed for WalletHub’s “2021’s Best and Worst States to Raise a Family”

The following was from an article titled, 2021’s Best and Worse States to Raise a Family, from WalletHub, and features commentary from Neil Mecham, Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies and Chair of the Child and Family Studies Department 

Ask the Experts

Not all states are created equal. Some are more conducive to pleasant family life than others. With those differences in mind, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?
  2. To what degree is a child’s development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the state they live in? How?
  3. How can authorities make their states more attractive to young families?
  4. How might Joe Biden’s proposals related to child care and paid family leave affect child and family well-being?
  5. In evaluating the best states for families, what are the top five indicators?
  6. How do different states compare when it comes to the support offered to single-parent families torn between struggling to find work and taking care of their children?
Neil Mecham

Neil Mecham

Ph.D. – Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies; Chair of the Child and Family Studies Department – Berea College

What should families consider when choosing a place to set down roots?

It might sound selfish, but parents should consider what an area holds for them – what they would like to do with their children. Developing strong supportive relationships with children is generally done while spending quality time with them, and parents are more likely to spend time with their children if they are doing things they, the parents, enjoy. So if you like to ride bikes, then selecting a city with established bike routes would allow being helpful. If attending cultural events brings you joy, then cities with venues for children would be important.

To what degree is a child’s development and a family’s quality of life influenced by the state they live in? How?

Quality of life can be measured in multiple ways. Taxes, education systems, industry, and wages all influence the financial aspect of the quality of life, but access to leisure activities and natural setting also has great influence. I know many families, not considered financially well off, who would rate their quality of life very high because they enjoy the opportunities their environment provides them.

How can authorities make their states more attractive to young families?

Local authorities should prioritize providing access to nature-scape areas. Sports fields are good, and so are plastic playgrounds, but nature-scape parks and playgrounds provide the most variety and invitation for families to use them year-round.

How might Biden’s proposals related to child care and paid family leave affect child and family well-being?

When parents need to work, they need to feel that their children are not just warehoused and kept safe. They want to feel that their children are growing; being challenged and enjoying their time. Supporting the childcare systems that can provide this level of quality care takes leaders who make it a priority, not an afterthought or lip service campaign promise.

In evaluating the best states for families, what are the top five indicators?

  • Access to activities that the parents would regularly enjoy doing with their children.
  • Support of and access to quality early childcare and early childhood education providers.
  • Access to nature-scape environments.
  • Policies that support parents’ efforts to spend time with their children.
  • Salaries and wages are sufficient; hence parents do not need to work two jobs or overtime.

Ultimate Guide to Paying Down Student Loan Debt

The following article was originally posted on moneygeek.com and features commentary from Theresa Lowder, Director of Student Financial Aid at Berea College.

By: Ingrid Cruz

Collectively, Americans owe nearly $1.51 trillion in outstanding student loans. Owing over a trillion dollars can affect millennials and, most recently, Generation Z. In addition, people over the age of 60 are also struggling with student loan debt, according to a 2020 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The average student loan borrower can expect payments from $200 to $300 per month. The coronavirus relief bill allowed for student loan repayment suspensions until September 30, but this was extended until December 31, 2020.

Understandably, people may be wondering what to do about repayment, particularly during uncertain economic times. The financial advice and expert insight in this guide have been compiled to help you formulate a plan to pay off your student loan debt.

Continue reading Ultimate Guide to Paying Down Student Loan Debt

Colleges That Give You The Biggest Bang For Your Buck In 2021

 

Drone photo over campus with a rainbow in the background

(Photo: Mark Huguely)

Originally posted on Forbes.com
By: Andrew DePietro

Finding schools that are both affordable and offer a quality education is something all college-seekers want, especially these days. College tuition costs have been on a seemingly unending, inexorable rise for the last 30 years. Looking at tuition costs, even after adjusting to inflation, the year-after-year increase since the 1980s is incredible. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of tuition at a four-year institution rose from $12,551 in the 1985-86 academic year ($5,504 in 1985 dollars) to $27,357 in 2017-2018. This means college tuition costs today are more than double what they were in the mid-1980s. And yet incomes, when you adjust to inflation, have simply not kept apace with rising tuition costs. The Covid-19 pandemic has added an entirely new and disruptive layer on top of these financial issues. Many more Americans are now strapped financially and thus the cost of college is a central concern.

Both public college and private college tuition costs have increased constantly over the last three decades and at similar rates. In the face of such inevitability, the best strategy is to find schools that gives you a bargain. A recent study conducted by BrokeScholar analyzed nearly 400 of the best colleges in the United States and evaluated them all in terms of their affordability and academic quality. The study found a variety of colleges, both public and private, that offer cheap tuition without skimping on high-quality education. Geographically, the colleges that made the final list in the study are a good mix, with several from the South, Midwest, Mountain and West Coast states as well as a cluster in the Middle Atlantic states, like New York and New Jersey.

Read on to find out the colleges that give you top-quality education at affordable rates.

Continue reading Colleges That Give You The Biggest Bang For Your Buck In 2021

‘Berea Kids Eat’ program feeds thousands of families for free

Martina Leforce distributing food in crates

Berea Kids Eat coordinator Martina Leforce ’07 preparing meals for children in the local community. Taken March 25, 2020.
(Photo: Crystal Wylie ’05)

By Jacqueline Nie
Originally posted on LEX18.com

When the pandemic hit Kentucky in March and schools were suddenly closed, children that relied on the USDA’s school lunch program were in turmoil after losing access to nutritious food.

The “Berea Kids Eat” program at Berea College responded and rallied together, serving up meals from local restaurants.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, there is a long line of cars, picking up breakfast and lunch for free.

Continue reading ‘Berea Kids Eat’ program feeds thousands of families for free

When your students are your workforce, what happens in a pandemic?

 

Edgar Ortiz weaving

Edgar Ortiz, a senior studying chemistry, works a loom at the weaving studio at Berea College, in Berea, Kentucky, Nov. 6, 2020. The college sells artisanal goods to the public, such as the placemat Mr. Ortiz is weaving, as well as other home goods made by students.
(Photo: Nick Roll/The Christian Science Monitor)

Originally posted by The Christian Science Monitor
By: Nick Roll, staff writer

Edgar Ortiz pauses as he operates a wooden loom several times larger than he is, reflecting on his college job as he fashions a place mat.

“Who comes to college and learns how to weave?” he asks.

For Mr. Ortiz, a chemistry major set to graduate this spring, weaving place mats wasn’t how he originally imagined he’d be spending his time outside the lab. But Mr. Ortiz attends Berea College, where every student is assigned a job on campus, ranging from farm work to artisanal craft skills – such as weaving or woodworking – to more routine posts such as cleaning or being a teaching assistant.

This past semester, though, Mr. Ortiz was missing more than half of his co-workers. Social distancing rules had limited the capacity of the weaving studio and the number of students able to work there. On a recent afternoon, he was joined by only one other student employee and their supervisor, who is overseeing seven students this year instead of her usual 16 to 18.

Students at work colleges like Berea – there are eight others in the United States – are employed by the school in an effort to keep costs down for both students and the administration. Working through the pandemic has meant adjusting to new health standards and working in smaller, socially distanced crews – if students are able to work at all. And for the colleges, disruptions to the student work programs lead directly to disruptions to day-to-day operations.

“We had to shift to a work program where we were covering the essential jobs first,” says Berea President Lyle Roelofs. This was especially true in agriculture, where the college’s crops and livestock needed diligent care, but there were fewer students on campus to provide it. “It was sort of amusing,” he says, recalling one student who was originally planning on working in the fundraising office but wound up “being asked to explore the dignity of labor by feeding the hogs.”

Continue reading When your students are your workforce, what happens in a pandemic?

Virtual Learning Challenges in Rural Appalachia

Draper Building

By Matt Stewart and Phillip Logsdon
Originally posted in College Services Magazine

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor, and service. The college admits only academically promising students with limited financial resources, primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia, although students come from 40 states and 70 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of eight federally-recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly, earning money for books, housing, and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.

Continue reading Virtual Learning Challenges in Rural Appalachia

As ‘Working College,’ Berea Provides High Quality at No Cost

Originally posted by Kentucky Ag Connection

Student loan debt in the United States is no joke. The total amount of debt has tripled since 2005 with college graduates and former students owing a jaw-dropping $1.6 trillion. Student loan debt is only surpassed by mortgage debt in the U.S.

The debt burden today’s college grads are carrying is actually changing the way millennials live their lives when compared to previous generations. Some have delayed marriage, put off buying a home, and even foregone having children due to their student loan burdens.

Continue reading As ‘Working College,’ Berea Provides High Quality at No Cost

As a ‘Working College,’ Berea College Provides High-Quality Education to Low-Income Students at No Cost

Guest post by Matt Walker, credit strategist and contributing editor to badcredit.org

Student loan debt in the United States is no joke. The total amount of debt has tripled since 2005 with college graduates and former students owing a jaw-dropping $1.6 trillion. Student loan debt is only surpassed by mortgage debt in the U.S.

The debt burden today’s college grads are carrying is actually changing the way millennials live their lives when compared to previous generations. Some have delayed marriage, put off buying a home, and even foregone having children due to their student loan burdens.

The student loan crisis recently gained a bit more attention on the national stage as COVID-19 has spread across the country. Social distancing and shelter-at-home orders have left millions out of work. Thankfully, Congress was able to quickly come together to pass the CARES Act, which halted student loan payments for six months and also paused collections on overdue student loan payments.

But after the COVID-19 crisis ends, the student loan debt crisis will remain.

What if students didn’t have to pay tuition to receive a high-quality college education? What if they went out into the world after four years debt-free and ready to contribute to society?

That’s what’s happening at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. The private college uses its endowment to accept academically promising, low-income students who likely would not have any other way to pursue higher education. And as part of their tuition-free education, students work 10 hours or more per week for the college in some capacity.

As the college itself puts it, it’s the best education money can’t buy.

We recently spoke with Berea College’s President Dr. Lyle Roelofs about the institution’s history and differentiating approach to higher education.

An Institution Founded on Progressive Ideals in the Pre-Civil War Era

“The college actually goes back to just before the Civil War,” Roelofs said. “It was founded by an abolitionist. Early on, it wasn’t completely free but it was always interracial and co-educational from the start.”

Berea College was the vision of Rev. John G. Fee, who started the institution as a one-room school in the central Kentucky town in 1855.

Berea was the first interracial and co-educational college to be founded in the South.“Fee, a native of Bracken County, Ky., was a scholar of strong moral character, dedication, determination, and great faith,” according to the college website. “He believed in a school that would be an advocate of equality and excellence in education for men and women of all races.”

Like so many businesses and institutions in the south, the college shuttered its doors during the Civil War but reopened as a bigger and better institution shortly after the war ended. The college made its next big step toward the model it operates on today with the tenure of its third president, who made some big changes.

“One was to eliminate tuition and another was to provide on-campus jobs for every student,” Roelofs said. “The idea was that those two things would enable students — instead of going away, working for a semester, coming back, then going away, and coming back — they might be able just to go right through and get their degree.”

To replace the cost of tuition, the college began a fundraising campaign aimed at wealthy people, mostly in the Northeast, who were willing to support schools in the South during the Reconstruction Era, Roelofs said.

“That was successful. (The president) promoted our service to Appalachia,” Roelofs said. “The idea was, as he put it, ‘to educate those undiscovered Abraham Lincolns that are still in the mountains and would otherwise not have access because they just don’t have any money.”

In the 1920s, the college established an endowment to move away from a model of only fundraising.

These early visionary and progressive efforts laid the foundation for the successful institution that Berea College is today.

How the Working College Model Functions and Allows Students to Attend Tuition-Free

Roelofs said Berea College’s endowment has now grown to a point that on a per-student basis it is comparable to some of the most highly ranked colleges in the country, and so is able to support a very high-quality educational experience.

“Until the recent downturn, it was about $750,000 per student,” he said. “That spins off about $35,000 to $40,000 per student per year. And that’s the foundation for the business model. We also raise another $4 million from donors annually. And we get a lot of Pell support because we don’t take students unless they have high need.”

Besides accepting no tuition, one of Berea College’s other main distinctions is that it is one of only nine federally recognized Working Colleges in the U.S.Roelofs explained that if a student can afford to pay any tuition at all, his or her application will not be accepted at Berea College. The mean family income of the college’s first-year students is less than $30,000 per year.

At Berea, every student works 10 to 15 hours per week while carrying a full academic load. The students are able to choose work options in more than 100 college and off-campus programs.

“Students gain valuable workplace experience, earn money for books, food and other expenses, and their appreciation for the dignity and utility of labor is enhanced,” according to the Berea College website.

And there is plenty of work to go around.

“The students are such good workers that every department around here wants more students,” Roelofs said. “The jobs are there — we’re always short on students to fill every job.”

The big upside for Berea College students is that they can graduate from college debt-free, unlike students from so many other institutions in the U.S.

Roelofs said that about one-third of Berea College students don’t incur any debt at all. Other students may incur small debts if they want to study abroad for a semester or perhaps they have family members they help care for.

But for those two-thirds, the average debt upon graduation is a meager $6,700. Not bad, considering the average college graduate in 2017 left school with an average debt of $28,650.

An Academic Curriculum That Sets Students Up to Succeed and Share Their Success

Although Berea College’s business model as a Working College is much different than most higher education institutions, it still offers a high-caliber education in an array of degree programs.

Students can earn a Bachelor of Arts or Science degree in one of 32 different majors or choose alternative options such as student-designed majors or a dual-degree engineering program. Berea also houses 16 national and international honor societies.

“Berea’s educational experience provides students the knowledge and skills to successfully navigate the world,” according to the college website. “Berea provides a stimulating and challenging environment. Whether in the classroom, attending a Convocation, interning, studying abroad or linking labor with academic goals, the educational experience is truly like no other.”

Roelofs praised the students’ work ethic, saying they don’t take their education opportunity for granted. About 70% of Berea College students are from the Appalachian region, but overall, there are 1,600 undergraduate students representing nearly every U.S. state and more than 60 countries. And 1 out of 3 students is a person of color, according to the college.

“Berea students are much more aware that this is probably their best and only chance to get a college degree,” he said. “It’s not like, ‘If this doesn’t work out for me, Mom and Dad will let me transfer to another school, and they’ll continue to pay tuition.’ If you don’t make it at Berea, you probably don’t have other good options. Maybe you go into the military or to a community college and see how that goes.”

Additionally, the student body is less cynical than it may be at other schools, Roelofs said.

And with Berea College graduates entering the workforce with little to no debt, they are free to make positive impacts on society and help their families in ways that may not have otherwise been possible.

“When you change the economic trajectory of a student’s life you actually change many trajectories,” Roelofs said. “That student will go on to have a family, and that family will be in completely different circumstances than they otherwise would have.”

This also means the student can help his or her other family members, such as parents, brothers, sisters, and cousins as well.

“So the impact of changing one life is really much, much broader than that one life,” he said.

Berea College has seen its graduates go on to an array of successful careers. One graduate won the Nobel Prize, Roelofs said, while another went on to become a doctor who founded the Cancer Center at Vanderbilt University.

While Berea College’s business model may not be realistic for every higher education institution, maybe it can serve as an inspiration for leaders and decision-makers to seek alternatives to the current system that has resulted in student debt problems for so many.

Setting Sail: Berea Forestry Logs White Oak Trees for Ship Restoration

Berea College foresters riding horses on a trail in the forest

(Photo: Taylor Six, The Richmond Register)

Guest post by Taylor Six, The Richmond Register

A writer, photographer, a history professor and tree-logger from all across the nation were brought to the small town of Berea Thursday afternoon for their one shared similarity in the interests of John Steinbeck and the restoration of The Western Flyer.

The Western Flyer, known as “most famous fishing vessel ever to have sailed,” was made famous with the sailing of the author Steinbeck, along with marine biologist Ed Ricketts, in their 1940 journey to the Gulf of California, which helped accumulate the notes for their 1951 book, “The Log from the Sea of Cortez.”

Continue reading Setting Sail: Berea Forestry Logs White Oak Trees for Ship Restoration

Seven Organizations Named as Hubs for Results Count™ Leadership Development

Partners for Education, Berea CollegeIn a major step to boost the reach of Results Count™, its unique approach to leadership development, the Casey Foundation has selected seven organizations to work with the Foundation for three years as hubs that will expand the use of Results Count throughout the social sector.

The goal: to increase the number of leaders who take a results-oriented approach to accelerate measurable and equitable improvements in well-being for children and families in communities across the country. Continue reading Seven Organizations Named as Hubs for Results Count™ Leadership Development

Dr. Jill Biden to Speak at Rural College Access and Success Summit

Dr. Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Biden (Photo: Ece Ogulturk)

Partners for Education at Berea College will host the 2018 Rural College Access and Success Summit. The keynote speaker, Dr. Jill Biden, EdD, Board Chair of Save the Children US, will address the need to prepare students of all ages for academic and life success.

The Summit will bring together educators, legislators, non-profit leaders and many others to share ideas and strategies for ensuring that rural youth have the resources to successfully transition from high school to college and career. During the Summit, participants will explore best practices and highlight the unique opportunities to be found in rural America. The event will be held May 13-15 in Lexington, Kentucky. Continue reading Dr. Jill Biden to Speak at Rural College Access and Success Summit