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The Labor Program

The Labor Program

Students receive a grant of $2,800 plus an hourly wage for their participation in the Labor Program.

Most students work 15 hours per week. Freshmen are given assignments; upperclassmen can choose from among 130 college offices, departments and programs.

Making Sense of the Money 

How is it possible for Berea College to offer a competitive education free of charge?

According to Diane Kerby, vice president for business and administration, Berea has a “tuition fund” — which other schools might call an endowment.

Apparently, the utopian visionaries who ran Berea College had their feet firmly on the ground when it came to financial matters. The school’s endowment of around $850 million —“depending on the stock market,” Kerby says — is approximately the 60th largest in the nation.

“Our financial planning dictates that we spend only 5 percent of the return on our endowment so that we don’t erode it, and our plans call for us not to grow in terms of overall budget more than 4 percent over the next four to five years. So that forces us to be fiscally responsible,” Kerby says.

“Essentially, the endowment funds 76 percent of our operating budget,” explains Shinn. “At most schools tuition would fund 70 percent to 80 percent of the operating budget, and at the schools with similar endowments to ours that tuition would be in the $30,000 range.”

The remainder of the annual budget comes from state and federal tuition grants and from annual fund raising that runs in the neighborhood of $2 million per year, says Kerby, adding, “As you can imagine, we have a pretty extensive development office.”
Berea is also about to conclude a $150 million capital campaign that included only four donations in the $1 million to $1.5 million range.

“We’re seeking a broad base of support,” says Shinn. “We’ve had 93,000 gifts from about 63,000 donors and the average gift is $1,200.”

Says Kerby, “We get a lot of $25, $50, $100 checks, too. There are a lot of people who believe in what we’re doing.”

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