Home » Publication ranks Berea College No. 1 in two major classifications

Publication ranks Berea College No. 1 in two major classifications

Berea College is located in Berea, Ky.
Berea College is located in Berea, Ky.

Washington Monthly has once again ranked Berea College No. 1 in two major classifications, citing Berea as the nation’s top liberal arts college and ranking Berea as the Best Bang for the Buck Colleges in the South.

Berea’s top rank in the 2017 Washington Monthly College Rankings Guide comes from its success in educating and graduating academically talented, low-income students who become service-oriented leaders in their professions and communities.

In announcing the rankings, Washington Monthly author Kevin Carey stated, “Berea College, a sui generis institution dedicated to educating low-income and first-generation students in Appalachia, is again our highest-ranked liberal arts college. College opportunity is a perennial favorite charitable cause, and the fortunes earned in this second Gilded Age are yielding gigantic new philanthropies. Some moguls turned benefactors might look to Berea as an organizational model: low cost, values driven, and highly focused on strengthening a crucial rung on the ladder of economic opportunity.”

Carey told the Lexington Herald-Leader: “Unlike the prestige and wealth-driven metrics put out by the likes of U.S. News and World Report, our rankings measure what colleges do for their country. Instead of rewarding colleges for the numbers of applications they reject, we give them credit for enrolling unusually large numbers of low-income and first-generation students.

“Instead of assuming that the most expensive schools are also the best, we recognize universities that produce research, train the next generation of scientists and Ph.D.s, and instill their graduates with an ethos of public service.”

Washington Monthly‘s rankings focus on what colleges are doing for the good of the country at large by the way they educate their students. The publication measures schools’ success in three key areas – social mobility (admitting and graduating low-income students), research and Ph.D. production, and community service – to determine the rankings.

“Recognition for Berea College and our success in serving low-income students is especially gratifying,” said Berea College President Lyle Roelofs. “The criteria for Washington Monthly rankings focus on aspects consistent with Berea’s mission.” He stated that while other publications rank schools using purely economic data and peer surveys that favor wealthy, elite colleges, by contrast The Washington Monthly criteria recognizes the value of social mobility, transformative education, and service. “These values are consistent with Berea’s ‘Great Commitments’ that inform all of Berea’s work and inspire donors to support it,” Roelofs continued.

The Washington Monthly cited Berea’s distinctive mission of serving low-income students. Between 80 and 90 percent of Berea students receive federal Pell grants. The national graduation rates for that demographic averages only in the mid-teens. By contrast, about two-thirds of Berea’s students graduate on time and a healthy number go on to earn Ph.Ds and other advanced degrees.

“Berea serves a diverse population of talented, low-income students from Appalachia and around the world,” President Roelofs said. “Berea College provides all of our students a four-year Tuition Promise Scholarship, which guarantees they will not pay tuition. Doing so ensures our students can focus on getting an education instead of worrying about how they will pay for it or taking on high levels of debt. With nearly 50 percent of our graduates pursuing an advanced degree and 50 percent working in service-related occupations, Berea College alumni are leaders in their professions and engaged citizens in their communities.”

The Washington Monthly College Rankings and guide appear online at:

The Washington Monthly article by Kevin Carey is available at: