Berea College: Small, But Strong

A couple of weeks ago I read about Berea College.

For those not familiar with the school, it’s the only college in America that offers students a no-tuition promise.

Now, that sounds absurd by today’s standards, considering the massive amount of debt many Millennials — including myself — have managed to accumulate all in the pursuit of higher education (and higher paying jobs).

Founded in 1855, it was one of the first integrated, co-education colleges in the south. Of course, being in Berea, Kentucky, this surely rubbed a few folks the wrong way. But this didn’t stop the founders from pursuing their vision of available education for all.

Working to study…

The college provides labor programs much like work-study operations. Older students hold jobs within the labor program that align with their degrees, while the younger students take on the labor jobs. By doing this, students can work to pay for their food and housing while gaining real-work experience that will help them in landing that first break.

Forty-five percent of graduates pass through the university without debt. If any do manage to accumulate debt, it typically doesn’t exceed $7,000.

When I first read about this place, I was amazed. The idea of having, on average, students graduating with $7,000 of debt compared to the national average of $37,000, or my own debt, which doesn’t need to be mentioned, seems like a thing of dreams.

It’s worth noting that Berea’s system is highly reliant on the stock market for the continuation of the tuition-free promise.

Much of the schools funding since its founding has come from endowments, about $1.2 billion worth.

Tax reform pain…

If there were any tax reforms, which colleges have been targeted for in the past, then the tuition-free promise would be ended due to the hit that $1.2 billion in endowments would take.

And it’s this kind of tax reform that yet again caused a divide between the Democrats and the Republicans.

Now, tuition-free college is a hot topic for many. Some think the idea preposterous. Others think it non-negotiable.

After all, tuition has done nothing but increase.

From 1980 to 2010, the national average of college tuition went up by almost 250%.

But back to Berea College…

They rely on the stock market, and are at the mercy of politics — much the same as you and me — but have been able to keep the college going, tuition-free promise intact, for so long because they have a system in effect that they believe in.

This is, of course, a small-scale college. But the size should not belittle their success.

It goes to show how far one can go when there are people there to support, to aide, to come together for a common belief, with a system that works.

Berea College, in a way, is a place built around hope and hard work.

It’s a place that moved me to believe that things can function in a better capacity, if we come together.

And it reminded me of the importance of what we do here at Dent Research.

Take care, take care.