Chew on this today:

BEREA, Ky. — Berea College, founded 150 years ago to educate freed slaves and “poor white mountaineers,” accepts only applicants from low-income families, and it charges no tuition.

“You can literally come to Berea with nothing but what you can carry, and graduate debt free,” said Joseph P. Bagnoli Jr., the associate provost for enrollment management. “We call it the best education money can’t buy.”

Actually, what buys that education is Berea’s $1.1 billion endowment, which puts the college among the nation’s wealthiest. But unlike most well-endowed colleges, Berea has no football team, coed dorms, hot tubs or climbing walls. Instead, it has a no-frills budget, with food from the college farm, handmade furniture from the college crafts workshops, and 10-hour-a-week campus jobs for every student.

Berea’s approach provides an unusual perspective on the growing debate over whether the wealthiest universities are doing enough for the public good to warrant their tax exemption, or simply hoarding money to serve an elite few. As many elite universities scramble to recruit more low-income students, Berea’s no-tuition model has attracted increasing attention.

This interests me mostly because I’ve seen my own great state university suckle ever more enthusiastically at the corporate teat in the last 40 years as backwards-ass lawmakers starve it for public funding on the basis that education makes y’all liberal, and some prof somewhere said something mean about the flag, and fuck ’em, basically, we’ve got banks to run. There was a part of me that couldn’t exactly blame an educational institution for finding funds where it could get them, and if the public won’t support a public university, well, then fuck it, we’ll take what we’ve got even if what we’ve got is money to endow a chair in I Love Theory that’ll go unfilled while scholarship funds languish.

But this place turns that whole equation on its head. You can have my Badger hockey team when you pry it from my cold dead fingers, there’s a place for the glory and grace of human sport, but if that’s one end of the spectrum where what we spend on merchandise could curedeath, we need to know where the other one is, and this looks like a really good example of it.



9 thoughts on “Education

  1. The geology department at Wisconsin is pretty well-endowed but you can’t say the same for other similar and science departments at Big 10 schools. Furthermore, math departments everywhere languish while University Athletics gets whatever it wants when it wants because it is the cash cow (haha) of the whole damned institution. But how much of that money makes it to academics? Does the money you spend on a jersey make it to biomedical research?
    I love my Badger football as much as you love your hockey, but am jaded by the whole damned shebang ever since a bunch of football players cheated and plagiarized their way through a geology course at the beginning of this decade and were let off with a slap on their collective wrist. That’s putting sports over the raison d’etre of the univereity, academics, and does not get my vote.

  2. i never heard of the place. sound awesome. NO SPORTS. my art school of course did not have a team of anything. more issues between the design and fine art.

  3. My mother graduated from Berea college, and she speaks fondly of it to this day. She donates to the Alumni fund, and often shows me the newsletter she gets from them.

  4. I didn’t know that about Berea. I’ve definitely heard of the school, though. I have always heard that it’s a good school academically speaking. I had no idea that it was a no-tuition school.

  5. Heh, Matri said “well-endowed.” /beavis
    Srsly, the concerns I have about education funding are the same concerns I have about political campaign funding. Whosoever provides the money has power over those they provide money to. Their priorities become the school’s priorities. That goes for state governments, too. (Thus all the ridiculously complicated state mandates for proof of quality in education, like there’s a metric that really captures how successful a college has been in educating its students…)
    I have no problem with sports at the college level–frankly, I am for anything that provides an avenue for low-income kids to go to college. Sports only become a problem when they become an end in themselves, rather than a means to get students an education. There are an awful lot of minor sports (in college terms) that offer scholarships (swimming, soccer, baseball, gymnastics, wrestling, just to name a few) and never see the kind of pressures the high-profile sports do. I’d hate to see those babies thrown out with the football and basketball bathwater.

  6. It hasn’t been that long since college sports teams were made up of students in that college, as opposed to being made up of recruited athletes from whereever they could be found, who were only “students” in the college. Those sports teams played their sport in front of an audience largely made up of fellow students and college townfolks. They played other nearby colleges, only.
    I had no objection to that type of college sports, and knew several of the athletes when I went to college. Many of those athletes were good students.
    Then TV came along.

  7. This sounds a bit like Cooper Union in NYC (see I, for one, am interested in any approach toward higher education that might have helped me avoid the tremendous student debt I accumulated while earning my BA, leaving me to enter a cheap but crappy and unsupportive MS program, and wonder whether I can afford to earn a PhD. Not if I am smart enough or dedicated enough or what have you. Am I rich enough. The answer is no, of course, but I’m gonna do it anyway.
    Real public education? Tuition-free education? I dunno…that sounds socialist to me. COMMIES!

  8. college needs to be lower cost state colleges at least. trade/tech schools free. shit. this girl on NPR couldn’t afford to take advantage of getting into NURSING. we neeeds that to be free or students.

  9. Every country should be doing this. I’ve been absolutely disgusted by the way the last several Ontario governments have done their damnedest to make sure that tuitions wind up being equally as expensive (they’d probably say “competitive”) with tuitions at some US universities. It used to be that you could graduate with low or no debt from a basic four-year bachelor’s degree, and now, unless you have wealthy parents, nobody gets out without going in hock. (At least these days, the government took over managing student loans directly. Mine are through one of the five Big Banks, and they’ve made extraordinary efforts above and beyond the call of duty to make my life…absolutely miserable.)
    And since they deregulated professional-school tuitions, forget about becoming a doctor or a lawyer unless your family is wealthy already. (And they wonder why, ten years after the neocon government that did this, there’s a huge doctor shortage…and then they blame the US for poaching doctors, hah!)

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