Washington Monthly has named Berea College (Kentucky) as the nation’s top liberal arts college in its 2011 College Rankings. Berea was ranked number one because of its success in educating and graduating academically talented, low-income students who become service-oriented leaders in their professions and communities.
Unlike other rankings that focus on what colleges do primarily for the good of individual students, Washington Monthly’s rankings focus on what colleges are doing for the good of the country through the way they educate their students. The publication measured three core metrics—social mobility (admitting and graduating low-income students), research and Ph.D. production, and community service— to determine their rankings.
Washington Monthly’s editors state, “Higher education, after all, isn’t just important for undergraduates. We all benefit when colleges produce groundbreaking research that drives economic growth, when they offer students from low-income families the path to a better life, and when they shape the character of future leaders.”
Berea College President Larry D. Shinn says, “Given the current national conversation about the cost/value equation of higher education, it is particularly gratifying for Berea College not only that we are judged to be number one, but why we are number one in the Washington Monthly rankings. Many publications that rank colleges and universities use criteria that focus on student test scores, economic data, and peer surveys that tilt the ratings toward elite colleges of wealth. The Washington Monthly criteria that value social mobility, excellent education, and community service validate Berea’s mission to serve the public good by educating talented low-income students who become service-oriented leaders in Appalachia and beyond.”
Citing Berea’s mission to serve low-income students, Washington Monthly notes that 80 percent of Berea students receive federal Pell grants, “a level of student poverty that at other, lesser colleges and universities would result in graduation rates in the mid teens. At Berea, by contrast, nearly two-thirds of students graduate on time and a healthy number go on the earn PhDs.”
Joe Bagnoli, Berea’s dean of enrollment and academic services, states, “We have always served a diverse population of talented, low-income students from Appalachia and around the world by providing all of them with a four-year tuition scholarship. With nearly 50 percent of our graduates pursuing an advanced degree and 50 percent working in service-related occupations, Berea alumni are leaders in their professions and engaged citizens in their communities.”
The 2011 Washington Monthly College Rankings and guide will appear in the September/October issue of the printed magazine and online at http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/.
About Berea College
Berea College is distinctive among institutions of higher learning. Founded in 1855, Berea was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Berea awards four-year tuition scholarships to all its students, who because of financial circumstances cannot otherwise afford a high-quality, residential, liberal arts education.
All students are required to work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs. Berea’s student labor program creates an atmosphere of democratic living that emphasizes the dignity of all work and provides opportunities for students to earn money for their rooms, books and board.
Alumni from Berea distinguish themselves and the college in many fields. Graduates include community leaders throughout the region, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, a U.S. Cabinet Secretary, the inventor of touch screen technology, and other alumni who live out the college’s motto: “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth” (Acts 17:26).