By Chris Shoemaker
Bluefield College in Bluefield, Va., is weighing in on the national debate on affordable higher education with a newly announced plan to reduce its tuition by nearly 50 percent for qualifying students.
During a recent press conference, Bluefield president David Olive shared the details of his school’s new Pathways tuition initiative which he said, “will provide a ‘pathway’ to quality higher education for students of the [central Appalachian] region with little to no direct out-of-pocket impact on their families.”
Starting with the 2015-2016 academic year, the Pathways tuition plan lowers Bluefield’s annual tuition from $23,295 to $12,000 for prospective students who qualify for the federal Pell grant, live at home and attend a school district within a 45-mile radius of its campus.
One-fourth of traditional students attending Bluefield this year qualified for a full Pell award, including 43 percent of the fall 2014 freshman class. Last fall, for the first time in school history, 100 percent of BC students received some form of financial aid.
Bluefield is already ranked among the Top 50 Christian colleges with the lowest student debt by Christian Universities Online and among the most affordable colleges online by College Choice. The school is affiliated with the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
“Bluefield College has a rich history and admirable mission,” said Olive. “Virginia Baptists and community members partnered 94 years ago to create a college that would serve the educational and spiritual needs of the young people in Appalachia. I’m proud to say we’re continuing to do that, and the Pathways initiative will just further our mission of being a place of accessibility.”
While not eligible for Bluefield institutional aid (such as academic, need-based or athletic/talent) under the Pathways plan, students may still qualify for outside scholarships from foundations, service clubs and other independent organizations. With external aid, Pell, and the significant reduction in tuition, students could graduate with much less debt than the average college student, said administrators.
Bluefield’s reduced tuition was announced as President Barack Obama unveiled America’s College Promise, a national program designed to make two years of college as free and universal as high school and to cut the costs of college for American students.
“In recent years, the national discourse on higher education has been centered on concerns over the rising level of student debt, the rising costs of education, and whether the average American family can afford a college education,” said Olive. “In part, we are responding to the President’s challenge to the higher education sector that we should always be mindful of those who are desperately in need of an education to better their lives but have little means to obtain their dreams.”