Growing up on a farm in rural Ohio, Jared Rowley would daydream about city life and one day going to college. It was a dream not shared by his parents. So after high school graduation, Jared was on his own. He made his way to Ohio University, but college life was far from what he imagined it would be.
There were no freshman dorm hijinks, not when you had to live in your car. Going to school full-time while working two part-time jobs started taking its toll on Jared’s body and spirit. He could barely scrape by and was steadily going deeper into debt. By the time winter rolled around he felt his dream of earning a degree slipping away.
Until he heard about Berea College from an old friend. A small liberal arts school in Kentucky, Berea does not charge its students tuition. An endowment that topped $1 billion before the recent recession began enables the college to continue its mission of providing a higher education to economically disadvantaged students, primarily from the Appalachia region.
There is a sliding-scale fee for room, board, and books which asks students to pay what they can depending on their families’ declared income (this is required by federal law). Berea students are expected to work 10 to 15 hours a week for the college, a portion paid towards education costs and the rest received by the student as a salary.
Jared graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Science in accounting & finance with a minor in economics. There is a job waiting for him in Boston. But first, he is working as the student representative on the planning task force charged with making recommendations on how Berea can survive the economic downturn and set itself up for generations to come.
It is a role Jared takes seriously because it is a way to give back to the place that has helped make his dream a reality.
“Berea saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”