Inside Higher Education

A College in the Library

The local public library is a treasured (if sometimes forgotten) American institution, free and open to all. Recognizing this, Bard College has opened a satellite college in the main branch of the public library in Brooklyn, N.Y., offering disadvantaged students a free pathway to higher education.

The so-called microcollege, run by the private liberal arts college and Brooklyn Public Library, welcomed its inaugural class in January. Seventeen students, all of whom have each confronted hurdles to higher education — including poverty, homelessness and incarceration — were accepted to the two-year associate degree program.

The microcollege offers only one associate degree, in the arts. Students in the initial cohort will take the same three classes this semester, however, courses will multiply as the college grows, Madhu Kaza, the microcollege program director, said. The microcollege is taught entirely in person at the public library. Kaza was a writing professor at Bard’s prison initiative, a higher education program run by the college for inmates in six New York correctional facilities. The microcollege is modeled on this prison initiative, which began in 2001.

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