Washington Monthly ranked Berea College as the nation’s third top liberal arts college again this year and also ranked Berea College as number 1 in the Best Bang for the Buck Colleges in the South category in the 2015Washington Monthly College Rankings Guide. Berea was so highly ranked 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 focused on what colleges do primarily for individual students, Washington Monthly’s rankings focus on what colleges are doing for the good of the country at large by the way they educate their students. The publication measures schools’ success in three key areas – social mobility (admitting and graduating low-income students), research and Ph.D. production, and community service – to determine the rankings. In a news release, Washington Monthly’s editors stated, “Washington Monthly also rates colleges that are doing the best job of helping non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices. Schools that do well on this unique ‘Best Bang for the Buck’ ranking range from well-known flagships like Ohio State and University of Washington-Seattle to urban gems like City University of New York’s Bernard Baruch College to smaller, regional institutions, like historically black Tougaloo College in Mississippi and Berea College in Kentucky. But many brand-name colleges, especially high-priced private schools, fare poorly on the list.”
Berea College President Lyle Roelofs said, “It is always nice for Berea to be recognized with strong rankings. Considering the ongoing national discussion about affordability and access, we at Berea College find it especially gratifying to be so highly judged by the Washington Monthly, particularly because that ranking emphasizes the endeavors that match up so well with Berea’s mission. Other publications rank schools using criteria that emphasize purely economic data, and peer surveys that tilt the playing field toward elite colleges of wealth. By contrast, The Washington Monthly criteria recognizes the value of social mobility, transformative education, and service, all of which 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 noted that 85 percent of Berea students receive federal Pell grants, a student demographic with graduation rates in the mid-teens in nation-wide averages. At Berea, by contrast, nearly two-thirds of students graduate on time and a healthy number go on to earn Ph.Ds and other advanced degrees.
“Berea College stands out because of its commitment to providing access to education for low-income students and ensuring they graduate with a high-quality education and little debt,” said Paul Glastris, editor in chief of Washington Monthly. “Berea is an example of an institution that takes care of its students and is committed to bettering society, and it’s reflected in their high ranking.”
“Berea has 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 Promise Scholarship, which every student receives when they enroll and guarantees they will never pay tuition. That way they can focus on getting an education instead of worrying how they will pay for it or take on high levels of debt,” President Roelofs continued. “With nearly 50 percent of our graduates pursuing an advanced degree and 50 percent working in service-related occupations, Berea College alumni are leaders in their professions and engaged citizens in their communities.”
The Washington Monthly College Rankings and guide will appear in the upcoming issue of the printed magazine and in the current, online edition.