Question 1:

How did receiving a tuition-free education affect your life?

Question 2:

What opportunities were you able to pursue because you graduated with little-to-no debt.

I could travel the world.

Carlos Verdecchia ’91
  1. Debt free, start earning money right away.
  2. Greater opportunity in traveling the world.
Joe Saleem ’08
  1. I was able to graduate with minimal debt from a tremendous school. Not having hundreds of thousands of dollars in student-loan debt hanging over my head allowed me to focus on building savings to be used for current expenses and emergency spending.
  2. I was able to pursue internship opportunities and other career opportunities that I don’t feel I would have pursued were I to have lots of debt to pay off right away.

I chose a career I love.

Sherry McCulley-Hall ’81
  1. A tuition-free education allowed me to begin an independent lifestyle as I began my nursing career. I left the college with a small savings thanks to the student work program, which also allowed me to pay the down payment on an apartment. Basically, I began my adult life and career independently.
  2. Being debt free allowed me to examine nursing jobs in other (locations) than my hometown.
Donna Dean ’69
  1. I would not have been able to pursue a college education with full effort and attention to learning. It would have been necessary for me to work to meet tuition expenses at other institutions. Because of my family’s financial status, I could not have qualified for college loans. I had two younger brothers whom my parents needed to support in our [tobacco] sharecropping family. Our parents wanted us to go to college but had been very honest in letting us know that they could only support us through high school graduation. After that, we were on our own. As with so many Berea students, I very easily qualified on the basis of financial need (as did my brother, who started at Berea the fall of my graduation year).
  2. I pursued a doctorate (which was 100 percent covered by a federal grant for both tuition costs and living expenses) and subsequent postdoctoral work (also covered 100 percent for research and living expenses). Most importantly, throughout my long career, I never had to give first priority to what a job would pay because I had no educational loans that I owed. This left me free to choose career pathways that meshed with my interests and skills without undue fiscal constraints.

I pursued a doctorate.

Geoff Bartlett ’93
  1. I’ve spent over 20 years working in higher education. I’ve heard horror stories of students overwhelmed with debt or having to work multiple jobs to pay for their education. It comes to the point where trying to pay for school becomes more of a priority than attending school. I am incredibly fortunate that I didn’t have either of those experiences and could simply focus on my time at Berea without the need or worry of having to figure out how to make money to stay in school.
  2. I went to graduate school knowing that any money I might need to take out for that wouldn’t be added to an undergraduate loan. It was incredible to eventually have three degrees, including two graduate ones, and graduate nearly debt free. It truly is a rarity today.
Alonzo Allen ’84
  1. It was an opportunity to acquire an education that aided me in building my future.
  2. Having very little college debt enabled me to have a favorable “debt-to-income score,” which helped me purchase my first house.

I bought a house.

Ethan Hamblin ’14
  1. There was never a moment in my childhood when my parents did not encourage me to go to college. However, our family did not make much money and certainly did not have a financial safety net to fall back on in hard times. Berea’s tuition-free scholarship alleviated the financial pressure on my family to pay for my education and opened doors beyond graduation for me to pursue my dreams.
  2. Graduating with no debt allowed me to pursue several lifelong dreams without the pressures of financial burden. I was able to study abroad for a graduate degree, purchase a brand-new car, build a savings account and travel. I am forever grateful to Berea for providing the path to explore, learn, serve, work and become the person I am today.

I pursued my dreams.

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