Berea College Students Get Free Rides

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," July 22, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

E.D. HILL, HOST: Today's top tier universities lure prospective students for the Ivy gates building expensive gyms and gourmet coffee shops. Alums give them millions of dollars, building up endowments that the Defense Department would envy.

But oddly enough, a small, largely unknown college has a boat load of money that it uses differently. Berea College gives every student a free ride to college. For the past 150 years, Berea made revolutionary steps in higher education, educating blacks and whites, men and women before other institutions. And now, the small Kentucky school is revolutionizing college tuition.

Joining me now in Louisville, Joe Bagnoli, Jr., associate provost at Berea, and Berea student, Enchanta Jackson. Thanks both for being with us.

Joe, let me start with you. How can this school rival an endowment — and I was shocked by it — Harvard, Yale, University of Texas and Stanford. You got a billion dollars in endowments?

JOE BAGNOLI, JR., ASSOCIATE PROVOST, BEREA COLLEGE: We do, and I think it comes from the belief that many people have across the country in the mission of Berea college, which is largely to serve underrepresented students who would otherwise find it difficult to finance a higher education of high quality.

Video: Watch E.D. Hill's interview

HILL: Yes. And you use that money. Well, the other schools have been highly criticized for basically stuffing that money away and letting it just continue earning interest and increasing students' tuitions. Your college gives students like Enchanta a free education. Tell me what you have to do to get that, because I understand there is work involved.

BAGNOLI: There is work. We expect every student to contribute to their own education by participating in our work program. We ask them to work a minimum of 10 hours each week. And after their first year, they have the opportunity to choose a position that may correspond with their academic or co-curricular interest.

HILL: So Enchanta, what did you choose to do?

ENCHANTA JACKSON, BEREA COLLEGE STUDENT: I work at Student Services at Berea.

HILL: Yes. And what do you have to do in that position?

JACKSON: Well, I cash student paychecks, take care of the time bills, process transcripts, process loans, things like that.

HILL: How do you view the other students that are there? Because, again, this college caters to poor blacks and I believe in the initial description, poor, white mountaineer students. So you have underprivileged students going there but having to work. What does that do? How does that change the student body?

JACKSON: It changes them a lot of different ways, because it is so diverse. Students who do graduate from Berea - we have more of an open mind and more broad consciousness about things. And so I think it better prepares us for the real world.

HILL: It does seem to set you up. You've got the harsh realities of growing up with not a lot of disposable income. But then, you're surrounded in college by kids just like you and having to work hard and learn to make your way. What do you expect to do after college?

JACKSON: I plan to go to law school at Howard University.

HILL: OK. Joe Bagnoli, I apologize that we don't have more time to talk about it, because it really is terrific what Berea College is doing. And I'm just glad that we got the chance even for a short period of time to tell people about this. Hopefully, you will inspire those other institutions.

BAGNOLI: Thank you.

HILL: Thanks very much, Joe and Enchanta Jackson.

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