Roy Gilbert

Here’s How 2 Schools Have Made Free College Work — For Decades

Photo caption: The Draper Building at Berea College in central Kentucky. The college hasn

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The Draper Building at Berea College in central Kentucky. The college hasn’t collected tuition since 1892. Founded by an abolitionist in 1855, it was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Two colleges in Kentucky offer something that most university administrators can only dream of. Berea College and Alice Lloyd College charge students nothing for tuition.

While each developed unique business models that don’t transfer easily to other schools, they do have some tips to help reduce the price of college tuition. More precisely — two tips and one caution.

Free college since 1892

Located in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains in central Kentucky, Berea College was founded by an abolitionist in 1855. It was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South.

When students couldn’t afford to pay for tuition, school officials eliminated it.

“Berea College has not been collecting tuition from students since 1892,” says Jeff Amburgey, Berea’s vice president of finance.

To cover costs without tuition revenue, Berea’s board of trustees did something almost 100 years ago that impacts its financial situation today. In 1920, the board ruled that any unrestricted money given to the college would be invested in an endowment to grow over time.The endowment is now worth around $1.2 billion, and profits from the investments cover a large portion of what it costs to educate more than 1,600 students.Most students come from Appalachia. They all come from low-income families. And none pays for tuition.”A lot of people say, ‘This has gotta be fake.’ […]

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