Imagine an institution that offers a high quality education, a diverse environment, and a great liberal arts programme — all while being among the rare tuition-free state universities in the country.
This might seem like a distant dream, but such a university, in actual fact, exists. Its name? Berea College.
Ranked among the top three liberal arts colleges, Berea College is one of the only free state universities in the US. Founded in 1855, the college now offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 28 different fields. This includes Appalachian Studies, Mathematics, Peace and Social Justice Studies, Sustainability and Environmental Studies, and more.
Berea College started as the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, with an ultimate goal to allow every student, regardless of their background or financial standing, equal access to excellent standards of education. This means that no student is ever charged a single cent to be eligible for a spot at the university!
One of the only free state universities in the US
To do this, Berea awards every student a Tuition Promise Scholarship — meaning that students at the university are not ever required to pay to attend their classes. Instead, the university relies on a mixture of endowment returns (covering 74% of its operating costs), federal and state funding (covering 17%), and the generosity of donors, from alumni, friends, and organisations, to students who believe a quality education should not be determined by one’s financial earnings (covering the final 9%). It’s this that allows Berea College to be one of the only free state universities in the country.
This is a far cry from other universities in the US, whose fees are rising every year. On average, students pay around US $99,417 over the course of their degree. Undergraduate degrees at public universities cost around US$26,290, with private university fees often doubling or tripling that amount. In fact, 15 out of 20 colleges listed in the most expensive universities in the world are situated in the US.
To qualify for a spot at Berea, however, you need to show that you would not otherwise be able to afford a university education. Students at Berea come from families with an average income of less than US$30,000. This way, students graduate without a mountain of debt and can begin a smooth transition into the next stages of their lives.