Roelofs: Berea College 'Work for Tuition' Model Could Benefit Other Schools

Aug 25, 2015

Credit casethree.org

    Berea College is being recognized for its educational value and the impact its graduates make. 

Washington Monthly magazine ranks Berea College first in the south for ‘Best Bang for the Buck.’  The school also places third nationally among liberal arts schools.

The college’s president says the southern Madison County school could teach other institutions a thing or two about affordability.

Students at Berea College pay no tuition and all must work on campus.  President Lyle Roelofs believes expanding this concept could help address concerns about increasing costs in higher ed.  “If other schools could agree on the value of work as part of the educational experience of all students, that would be a powerful change within higher education,” said Roelofs.

Roelofs says the tuition for work model could help control costs and would contribute to the education of students.  At Berea College, the president says about 98 percent of students receive Pell grant support.

Roelofs admits it would likely be quite a challenge and could take years to make such a change.  “You can turn a big ship a little at a time and that’s probably what needs to happen in American education," he said.  "Right now, ships are gonna be sinking rather than turning a little bit at a time unless we come to grips with this.” 

He says this type of substantial change would require a great deal of fundraising.  Roelofs believes college costs at private schools might be more manageable if institutions expanded the number of students who receive financial support.  “And then select those students to receive that support only from groups of students that really need it, that is, families that otherwise couldn’t afford to send their children to college,” explained Roelofs.

Roelofs believes the move could gradually make college more affordable for lower income students. ​