Prospect Heights

Brooklyn Public Library teams up with Bard to offer free college degrees

First accredited associates degree in a public library

November 7, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bard College is teaming up with Brooklyn Public Library to offer a free college degree program at the Central Library, shown above, for non-traditional students. The program is the first-ever accredited Associates degree in a public library.  Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
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A new program to help students who have been discouraged or excluded from higher education will be bringing liberal arts Associate degrees to Brooklyn starting this winter, Bard College and Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) announced recently.

“Bard at Brooklyn Public Library,” which dubs itself a “microcollege,” says it will bring high-quality Associate degrees directly to students with the greatest barriers to education. Classes will take place at the Central Library in Prospect Heights.

Bard at BPL will admit roughly 16 students to start. Classes are scheduled to begin this January.

Linda Johnson, president & CEO of BPL, said in a statement that the program would be the first-ever accredited Associates degree in a public library.

“By combining the diverse resources of both Bard and Brooklyn Public Library, we can provide people who have previously been discouraged or excluded from higher education access to top-tier college-level liberal arts courses on a campus in the heart of Brooklyn,” Johnson said.

Max Kenner, vice president for Institutional Initiatives at Bard College, said that by pooling resources, Bard and the Library would provide students “a broad, rigorous college education, spanning the breadth of the arts and sciences, at no cost and in their home community.”

The introductory course work will range from Plato’s “Republic” to Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” to Baldwin’s “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” Students will enroll in small seminars taught by experienced Bard professors.

The program is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Pell grants. Financial aid will cover the cost of books, academic support and personalized guidance services, and help students navigate the process of completing their Bachelor’s degrees if they choose.

The first Bard Microcollege opened as a pilot in August 2016 in Holyoke, MA in partnership with The Care Center, an organization that serves young mothers living in poverty. Bard also operates early colleges in conjunction with public high school systems in New York, Newark, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Cleveland.

Another program, the Bard Prison Initiative, is the largest college-in-prison program in the United States.

Throughout the month of November, the admissions process will occur entirely in-person at Brooklyn Public Library. It requires no standardized exams and no transcripts. Students will be notified in early December and will matriculate in January 2018.

Potential applicants can visit for more information.


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