On September 13th, 2016, a U.S. House Ways and Means subcommittee held a hearing to look at how colleges use their tax-exempt endowments and control the rising cost of tuition. Of course, in Berea College’s case, students do not pay any tuition. Berea’s Vice President for Finance, Jeff Amburgey, was among a select panel of higher-ed leaders invited to provide testimony. Amburgey discussed how Berea makes college affordable to those who can least-afford it, the very population of students Berea serves in Appalachia and beyond.
Before the hearing, U. S. Congressman Peter Roskam, Chair of the subcommittee stated, “The Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Members are deeply concerned that college tuition is spiraling out of control, making higher education out of reach for American families, even when most colleges and universities enjoy significant tax benefits. We look forward to learning about creative measures some institutions are taking to reduce costs for students, as well as to hearing about various tax policy proposals that could affect colleges and universities.”
In his testimony, Jeff Amburgey described some of those “creative measures,” such as Berea’s no-tuition model, which has been in place since 1892. He explained how the College is funded through contributions to the endowment from alumni and donors. He also pointed out that many of Berea’s students graduate with no debt at all and for those who accumulate debt, the average is only about $7,000 (compared to the national average of $30,000+). Several Congressional representatives conducting the hearing heaped accolades upon Berea for setting the example of making higher education accessible and affordable.
The hearing by the House Ways and Means subcommittee garnered considerable attention in national media outlets, both leading up to the hearing and coverage today. A representative sampling of related articles are available at: