Statement on Supreme Court Ruling Protecting LGBTQ+ Members in the Workplace

Drone photo over campus with a rainbow in the background

We are heartened by the recent Supreme Court ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects members of the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At Berea College, we are guided by the motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth.” That all-encompassing scripture from Acts 17:26 implies that we are all equal, giving no consideration to race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, religion or sexual orientation. The Court’s ruling affirms our commitment to employees and provides another level of security in the workplace. June is Pride Month, and yesterday, June 28, was the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march, held on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. We, indeed, are of one blood.

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.

Washington Monthly Again Ranks Berea No. 1, Twice; As Best National Liberal Arts College and Best Bang for the Buck in the South

Washington Monthly once again ranked Berea College No. 1, in two major classifications, citing Berea as the nation’s top liberal arts college and ranking Berea as the Best Bang for the Buck College in the South. Berea’s top rank in the 2018 Washington Monthly College Guide and Rankings comes from its success in educating and graduating academically-talented students who have great financial need to become service-oriented leaders in their professions and communities. Continue reading Washington Monthly Again Ranks Berea No. 1, Twice; As Best National Liberal Arts College and Best Bang for the Buck in the South

Berea College President Featured in University Business Magazine

President Lyle Roelofs running with studentsThe January issue of University Business magazine features a recent interview with Berea College President Lyle Roelofs. Matt Zalaznick’s article highlights Berea’s mission and legacy of interracial and coeducation for low-income students. Roelofs also discusses the challenge of maintaining Berea’s no-tuition policy in today’s economic climate, the College’s response to external social pressures and Berea’s distinctive Labor Program.

To get a more personal glimpse of President Roelofs, read Zalaznick’s article on the president’s interests and hobbies.

Berea Named a “Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck” College by the Princeton Review

We Made the List! - Colleges that Pay You Back 2018Berea College, widely known for its no-tuition policy, is named in the newly released edition of The Princeton Review’s book, Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Schools That Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck. Only 7 percent of the nation’s four-year colleges earn inclusion in this publication.

In addition to being named as a College That Pay You Back—based on academic rigor, affordability and career outcomes for graduates—the book also cites Berea College in the following categories:

  • Tuition-Free Schools (One of just nine)
  • Green Colleges
  • Best Southeastern (Schools considered academically outstanding)

Continue reading Berea Named a “Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck” College by the Princeton Review

Berea College Releases New Informational Video

The new year brings a new video: “This is Berea College.” The video, available on www.berea.edu, Facebook and Twitter, provides an informational overview of Berea’s inclusive mission to provide a high-quality liberal arts education to those who can least afford it. Continue reading Berea College Releases New Informational Video

Washington Monthly Ranks Berea No. 1 Twice; As Best National Liberal Arts College and Best Bang for the Buck

Student with Washington Monthly 2017
Washington Monthly has once again ranked Berea College #1 in two major classifications, citing Berea as the nation’s top liberal arts college and ranking Berea as the Best Bang for the Buck Colleges in the South. Berea’s top rank in the 2017 Washington Monthly College Rankings Guide comes from its success in educating and graduating academically talented, low-income students who become service-oriented leaders in their professions and communities. Continue reading Washington Monthly Ranks Berea No. 1 Twice; As Best National Liberal Arts College and Best Bang for the Buck

See Video of “Topping Out” of Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health Building

View a video and photo gallery from the recent topping out ceremony of the Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health building. To mark the occasion, Berea College trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and representatives from builder Messer Construction gathered on Friday, April 21, to witness the installation of the final beam in the building’s framework. Continue reading See Video of “Topping Out” of Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health Building

Berea College Welcomes Public to 2016 Opening Convocation

Our Berea: Speaking the Great Commitments Anew

Seabury Center – 3:00 p.m., September 1, 2016

Opening Convocation 2015The entire Berea College community will mark the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year at the College’s Opening Convocation on Thursday, September 1, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. in the Seabury Center. The program is free and open to the public. Continue reading Berea College Welcomes Public to 2016 Opening Convocation

Kiplinger Cites Berea College as Cost-Saving Option

Berea College Campus in the Fall

Berea College Campus in the Fall

Once again Berea College is in the national spotlight for making college affordable. In a new article titled 11 Ways to Cut the Cost of College Tuition published by Kiplinger.com, readers are offered nearly a dozen money-saving tips to trim your annual … costs by as little as $500 (by winning a small scholarship) or in full (by attending a tuition-free school). Berea is mentioned as the first cost-saving option: going to a school that doesn’t charge tuition. Continue reading Kiplinger Cites Berea College as Cost-Saving Option

Love Over Hate

Love Over Hate

Tragic deaths occurred last week in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas.  These evil acts are sad reminders of just how long and difficult is our nation’s journey toward peace and racial justice. I ask all Bereans to remember and raise up in prayer the victims and their loved ones and to continue to hold to our ideals in all you do, seeking peace with justice and trusting in the power of love over hate. 

Lyle Roelofs
President, Berea College

#LoveOverHate

About 600 Bereans from the College campus and from the City, and many from further away, including some members of the College’s Trustees, participated in a rally on November 23 to focus on Berea’s values, such as love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice. The rally was in response to recent reports of racism and harassment in the community as an example of a shared commitment to justice and equality. The rally generated broad attention in media outlets. A few representative examples can be seen at: Continue reading #LoveOverHate

The Berea Community Stands Together Again on Monday, November 23rd

Dear Bereans,

I am writing with support from community and student groups committed to social justice to invite you to an important event to demonstrate the values of Berea College in the face of a growing number of incidents involving harassment to students of color and LGBTQ students. Continue reading The Berea Community Stands Together Again on Monday, November 23rd

Addressing Recent Incidents of Racism and Intolerance on Our Campus

Dear Berea College Students, Faculty and Staff,

Responding to incidents of drive-by racism and homophobia that have been occurring over the last several days on the roads through campus, some members of our community attended this evening’s City Council meeting to express grave concern.  The Administrative Committee has also decided to make a statement regarding these incidents.  We share it with you below and will be submitting it to the Berea Citizen for publication as well. Continue reading Addressing Recent Incidents of Racism and Intolerance on Our Campus

Berea College Welcomes Public to Opening Convocation

President Lyle Roelofs

President Lyle Roelofs

Exploring the Commitments: Let’s Get to Work

Seabury Center – 3:00 p.m., September 3, 2015

The entire Berea College community will gather to celebrate the opening of the 2015-16 academic year at the College’s Opening Convocation on Thursday, September 3, 2015, at 3:00 p.m. in the Seabury Center. The program is free and open to the public. Continue reading Berea College Welcomes Public to Opening Convocation

Berea College Joins the Nation in Recognizing the Passing This Weekend of Julian Bond

Throughout his career as a legislator and activist for civil rights, Julian Bond came to Berea several times—first in the 1970s—to speak to the campus community. Julian Bond’s ties to Berea College were deep, going back three generations. Continue reading Berea College Joins the Nation in Recognizing the Passing This Weekend of Julian Bond