Washington Monthly ranked Berea College No. 1 as the Best Bang for the Buck Colleges in the South. Berea also was named the nation’s No. 3 top liberal arts college in the 2020 Washington Monthly College Rankings guide. No other college in Kentucky was in the top 50. Such recognition for Berea comes from its success in educating and graduating academically talented, low-income students who become service-oriented leaders in their professions and communities. Last year, Berea held the No. 1 and No. 4 spots respectively.
Berea College was recognized by Washington Monthly author Robert Kelchen for maintaining “consistently high rankings thanks to their economic diversity, relatively strong graduation rates and commitment to meeting students’ financial need.”
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.
“We find such recognition for Berea’s success in serving low-income students most gratifying, especially since the criteria for Washington Monthly rankings aligns with Berea’s mission,” said Berea College President Lyle Roelofs. “The economic data and peer surveys that other publications use for their rankings typically favor wealthy, elite colleges. By contrast the Washington Monthly criteria recognizes the value of social mobility, transformative education and service, which are consistent with our Great Commitments that inform Berea’s work and inspire support from donors.”
Berea’s distinctive mission is providing low-income students with a high-quality liberal arts education. About 90 percent of Berea students receive federal Pell grants and the annual household income of students’ families is about $29,000. The national graduation rates for that demographic averages only in the mid-teens. By contrast, about two-thirds of Berea’s students graduate on time and many go on to earn Ph.Ds. and other advanced degrees.