Nothing in life is free. But in Kentucky, there are some deals at the college admissions table. Not many people realize there are two colleges here that provide full-tuition scholarships to every student. However, there is a catch:
You must be willing to work for it.
Work colleges offer a high-quality education at a reduced cost in exchange for completing a number of work hours per semester. According to the Work Colleges Consortium, there are seven federally recognized work colleges in the United States, and Kentucky is the only state to have more than one. Students who attend work colleges have a high chance of graduating debt-free and will always graduate with much less debt than the average student at a traditional college or university.
Besides offering an education with a small price tag, work colleges also present an innovative approach to higher learning. Dr. Larry Shinn, who has been the president of Berea College for 17 years, describes this as the `integrated proposition of work, learning and service.â€ First, these schools offer a top-notch education. Secondly, a work-study program equips students with real-world work experience. Finally, students of work colleges gain a real appreciation of service to others. As the recipients of a tuition-free education, students learn firsthand what it means to experience benevolence, and therefore, may graduate with a desire to pay that forward and give back to the community.
This integration of concepts allows work college graduates to come to an employer with an established work ethic, a skill set and a heart for service that many new hires do not acquire until they have spent time on the job. Scott Maas, a graduate of Berea College, says that graduating from a work college has gotten him in the door for an interview at every job he has applied for. As Dr. Joe Stepp, president of Alice Lloyd College, explains, `Work colleges train and prepare students for tomorrow. That is why our graduates are in such high demand.â€
Alice Lloyd students work in a wide variety of jobs, including academic aides, administrative aides, telecounselors, janitors, computer lab assistants, computer technicians, craft shop workers, day care workers, groundskeepers, library assistants, lifeguards, resident advisers, radio station workers and employees of the Hunger Din (the dining hall).
Berea College offers similarly varied jobs in its Student Labor Program, but also includes a strong arts and crafts program, where students work at weaving, blacksmithing, ceramics, broom crafting and woodworking. Additionally, the school`s Labor Program works in conjunction with Boone Tavern. Diners visiting the historic inn and restaurant are likely to be served by a Berea College student.
Both Alice Lloyd and Berea were founded upon Christian principles that define the schools to this day. They were considered revolutionary in their founders` day, and they still are revolutionary. Founded in 1855, Berea was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. The school takes its motto seriously and has adorned the campus with these words: `God has made of one blood all people of the earth.â€ In its 2011 edition of Best Colleges, U.S. New and World Report ranks Berea No. 67 nationally among liberal arts colleges.
Alice Lloyd College was founded as a junior college in 1923 by Alice Geddes Lloyd, who felt that education was the answer to overcoming poverty in Appalachia. The college still is the only institution granting four-year degrees that recruits exclusively in rural Appalachia.
The fundamental ideas that all are created equal and should have access to an education are the brick and mortar that hold these schools together. They have made a strong commitment to provide a quality education to those who might not have access to higher learning. In fact, both colleges have admission standards requiring students to prove that they are deserving of the opportunities the schools have to offer. To receive a full-tuition scholarship to Alice Lloyd College, students must reside in one of 108 counties that make up a large portion of Appalachia.
Berea, on the other hand, does not have a residential requirement, but students who apply must be able to prove financial need. The average student at Berea has a total family income of just above $29,000 a year. If a family exceeds the minimum income requirement, the student will be turned away. To emphasize how strongly the college adheres to this policy, Joe Bagnoli, the school`s dean of Enrollment and Academic Services, says that Berea College offers the `best education that money cannot buy.â€
In addition to tuition paid in full, each school provides some extra benefits to attendees. Alice Lloyd College offers students who want to pursue graduate or professional degrees at the University of Kentucky an opportunity to live in the Caney Cottage, an apartment building owned by the college, which is located on UK`s campus. Caney scholars can live in the cottage free of rent and utility payments. If students choose to continue their education at another institution, ALC also offers the Berger ScholarÂship, which provides funding to help cover some of the costs.
Berea offers students assistance with room and board if needed, as well as payment for hours worked. In addition, every student is given a free laptop computer for schoolwork. The laptop can be taken home upon graduation. Finally, Berea will pay 75 percent of a student`s expenses to study abroad and as much as $550 to assist those who want to further their educationâ€”money to offset the student`s cost to visit and/or apply to another college or university.
While both colleges offer many benefits, there are what some high school graduates might consider disadvantages. First, both schools are located in rural parts of the state: Berea College is in Berea in the Appalachian foothills, and Alice Lloyd College is located in far eastern Kentucky in tiny Pippa Passes. While both locations are beautiful, they do not offer the big-city lights that some kids might long for when going off to college. Secondly, smaller schools offer fewer degree options. These institutions provide quite a few areas of study, but if students want to major in something specialized, such as marine biology or poultry science, they will need to go to another school. The schools also have some rules that might be viewed as a downside. For example, both Alice Lloyd and Berea require that all students attend seven convocations per semester. Some students look at convocations as forced participation, while others see them as enrichment opportunities. Convocations can include distinguished speakers, local leaders and musical or theatrical performances.
Priscilla Henkin, who graduated from Berea in May, says that while `the rules are annoying, most students understand what they are signing up for when they come.â€ One rule both schools have in common is limited visitation in male and female dorms by members of the opposite sex. Alice Lloyd College enforces class attendance and a midnight curfew for all students, and Berea College prohibits most students from having a car on campus. Then, there is the mandatory work program.
Alice Lloyd students are required to work 10 hours per week. While all the student workers do not receive cash in hand for hours worked, they do have an opportunity to advance to managerial positions, where they can work more hours and earn extra cash. Berea, on the other hand, pays all of its students for hours worked, with wages ranging from $4.80 to $6.20 an hour. Some students see the work as a pain, but most see it as an opportunity. The work benefits the school in that it keeps costs down so those resources can go toward the tuition scholarships. Students do everything from mowing lawns to creating databases.
As the Alice Lloyd College website states, for a student to do well, all he or she needs is a desire for learning and self-improvement.
Federally Recognized Work Colleges in the United States
Alice Lloyd College
Pippa Passes, Ky.
College of the Ozarks
Point Lookout, Mo.
Warren Wilson College
For more information on these higher education institutions, which are members of the Work Colleges Consortium, visit www.workcolleges.org.