News / USA

Students Earn Debt-Free College Degree

Berea College allows students to work-study their way to a university degree

Berea College students pay for their education by working at jobs provided by the college while they study to earn their degrees.
Berea College students pay for their education by working at jobs provided by the college while they study to earn their degrees.

Multimedia

Audio
Mike Osborne

The Friday afternoon computer science class at Berea College looks much like similar classes on campuses all over America. But there’s one big difference. While a four-year undergraduate degree at Berea costs nearly $100,000, these students will never see a bill for tuition.

The average American takes out $24,000 in student loans to pay for their university education. Of those loans, about 14 percent slide into default. However, at this college in the small town of Berea, Kentucky, graduates rarely have to cope with that kind of crushing student debt.

Berea students pay for their education - as they study - by working at jobs provided by the college. Like most students, senior Jane Tonello works about 10 hours a week between classes. The school taught her to weave cloth that’s later sold to tourists in college stores. As a result, Tonello will soon graduate debt free.

Jane Tonella, who hopes to be a doctor, learned how to weave on a traditional loom to earn her tuition at Berea College.
Jane Tonella, who hopes to be a doctor, learned how to weave on a traditional loom to earn her tuition at Berea College.

"It’s a very good feeling to know that at least I’ll have a fresh start financially when I get out of school," says Tonello, "which is very, very nice because there aren’t too many people who can say that."

She hopes to be a doctor and plans to start medical school later this year. While weaving cloth on a primitive loom may not seem relevant to a career in medicine, Tonello says the work has taught her useful skills.

"A large portion of being a doctor is dealing with people and developing people skills, and also time management skills, and learning new things. It’s really not so different."

It’s exactly those kinds of skills that today’s employers are looking for, according to David Tipton, dean of Labor at Berea.

"The student’s ability to work in teams, to have initiative, to be accountable, to have attendance, show up on time - those type of things that really employers are looking at, those types of soft skills that anybody working anywhere would need to have to be able to be a good employee."

When Berea College was founded in the 1850s, most Kentucky residents were subsistence farmers. The work/study program provided a way for penniless students to pay for a college education. For today’s more affluent students, the program serves a different purpose.

The first students at Berea were children of poor farmers, who could not afford to pay for a college education.
The first students at Berea were children of poor farmers, who could not afford to pay for a college education.

"It seems that now-a-days, a lot of times students have never worked and so it is a new experience for some of them," says Tipton. "A lot of them you’re trying to train from the very beginning on what it means to work."

Students are initially assigned work, ranging from grounds maintenance to counter sales in the student center. They eventually get to choose a job from more than 100 different positions, including skilled crafts like weaving and woodworking.

Berea is one of only seven so-called "work" colleges in America, but that may change. Dean Tipton says more schools are expressing an interest in Berea’s holistic approach to education.

"When you’re talking about educating the whole person, you’re talking about educating what we call the head - the academics; the hand - the labor; and the heart - the service or the spiritual element of the individual."

Tonella says her work hours do bring balance to life. She finds the weaving to be a welcome distraction from her medical studies. "I’m very happy to be able to have something that kind of balances out the scientific side and the creative side. And so my job is kind of like my happy time where I don’t have to think so hard."

America’s institutions of higher learning might benefit from Berea’s example. A recent study by prestigious Georgetown University says American colleges are not doing a good job of teaching students the kind of practical work skills the nation’s businesses will demand in the future.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid