Innovative Program for Nontraditional Students is First of Its Kind in the Nation
Eight Students Earned Full Scholarship Liberal Arts Degrees at Brooklyn Public Library in Partnership with Bard College
Brooklyn, NY—The students in the first graduating class of Bard at BPL earned associate of arts degrees this weekend during Bard College’s socially distant commencement ceremony. The Bard at BPL micro college is an innovative program that provides a traditional ambitious liberal arts education to nontraditional students who had previously been deterred, discouraged or excluded from higher education. The collaboration between Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and Bard College provides a fully accredited, full scholarship education for students from inside the public library, the only program of its kind in the nation.
“The achievements of these graduates are a reminder of what is possible -- and what we are not doing -- in American higher education today. They prove that if we curtail bureaucracy, refrain from driving students into insurmountable debt, and hold them to the highest academic standards that they will accomplish extraordinary things. Bard at BPL is the kind of community-based partnership that engages every kind of student and can be a model for a better American future,” said Max Kenner, Bard Prison Initiative Executive Director.
The inaugural class members range in age from 23 to 68 years old and include native New Yorkers, immigrants and persons who were formerly incarcerated.
The rigorous high-quality academic program includes small seminars, with experienced Bard professors in literature, philosophy, anthropology, mathematics, sociology, art, science, economics, history and more. Students have full access to the library’s vast collection, as well as spaces for quiet study and individualized support inside and outside the classroom.
"Brooklyn Public Library extends the most heartfelt congratulations to the first graduating class of Bard at BPL,” said Linda Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “The Microcollege carries out the Library’s mission to provide to everyone with the inclination to come through our portals—regardless of age, race, income, or background—the opportunity and benefits of education, the dignity and exhilaration of lifelong learning, and the hope and joy of possibility.”
Commencing in January 2018, with funding provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Pell grants, the program brings high-quality, full scholarship liberal arts education to those communities most often excluded from the university experience and avoids some of the traditional pitfalls of applying to and attending college, such as standardized exam and application fees, the cost of books and room and board, or the difficulty of balancing education and childcare or full-time work.
The lack of education and a college degree is traditionally one of the greatest barriers to economic mobility. Public libraries have long been at the center of local communities, providing educational opportunities for every stage of life from early childhood education and literacy advocacy to homework help and tutoring, adult education and continuing learning for seniors. Bard at BPL helps to complete that educational life cycle by working in partnership with one of the most impressive liberal arts institutions in the country to bring top-tier, college level academics out of the ivory tower and into the public sphere.
Similarly, Bard College has a long-standing commitment to bringing high quality education to unlikely places. The pilot Bard Microcollege opened in August 2016 in Holyoke, MA in partnership with The Care Center, an innovative community-based educational organization that serves young mothers living in poverty. The microcolleges are the latest of Bard College’s initiatives to provide high-quality college education to students at no cost. The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) is one of the largest college-in-prison programs of its kind in the United States, enrolling over 300 students in prisons across New York and cultivating a network of similar programs in fifteen states. Bard also operates early colleges in conjunction with public high school systems in New York, Newark, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Cleveland.
Like BPI, Bard at BPL disrupts expectations about the kinds of students who can and will succeed in college and beyond.
A commencement ceremony took place on Saturday at Bard’s Annandale campus in the Hudson Valley with both virtual and in-person components. A new cohort of students will start this Fall with courses beginning online.
About Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.6 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 65,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. And we give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book.
About Bard College
A private institution in the public service, Bard College enrolls approximately 5,000 students in its global affiliates worldwide, including 2,000 undergraduates in Annandale, nearly 1,000 students in Bard high school/early colleges around the country, and over 300 students across the six in-prison campuses operated by the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI). In all of its programs, the college seeks to provide both a demanding academic program and a supportive environment for the exchange of ideas. Bard is fervently committed to the liberal arts and to democratizing access to them.