The Mission of Berea College

Thanks for your interest in the mission of Berea College. We are in so many ways an institution unlike any other: a residential liberal arts school that does not charge tuition; a college that hires every student it admits; the first interracial and co-educational school in the South; and a school that firmly and intentionally imbeds itself in the region of Appalachia even while drawing students from all over the country and the world.

As such, our identity is more singular, and our mission is more complex than most schools, and the only way to really capture them is through what we call our Great Commitments. These are encapsulated in a statement first formulated in the 1960s and very occasionally rearticulated since then. As a moving account of the essence of Berea College, I recommend the Great Commitments for your consideration and further interest.

Lyle D. Roelofs


The Great Commitments of Berea College

Berea College, founded by ardent abolitionists and radical reformers, continues today as an educational institution still firmly rooted in its historic purpose “to promote the cause of Christ.” Adherence to the College’s spiritual foundation, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth” (Acts 17:26) shapes the College’s culture and programs so that students and staff alike can work toward both personal goals and a vision of a world shaped by Christian values, such as the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice. This environment frees persons to be active learners, workers, and servers as members of the academic community and as citizens of the world. The Berea experience nurtures intellectual, physical, aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual potentials and with those the power to make meaningful commitments and translate them into action.

To achieve this purpose, Berea College commits itself:

  • To provide an educational opportunity primarily for students from Appalachia, black and white, who have great promise and limited economic resources.
  • To provide an education of high quality with a liberal arts foundation and outlook.
  • To stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions and to emphasize the Christian ethic and the motive of service to others.
  • To provide for all students through the labor program experiences for learning and serving in community, and to demonstrate that labor, mental and manual, has dignity as well as utility.
  • To assert the kinship of all people and to provide interracial education with a particular emphasis on understanding and equality among blacks and whites.
  • To create a democratic community dedicated to education and equality for women and men.
  • To maintain a residential campus and to encourage in all members of the community a way of life characterized by plain living, pride in labor well done, zest for learning, high personal standards, and concern for the welfare of others.
  • To serve the Appalachian region primarily through education but also by other appropriate services.

The Great Commitments were formed around the goals of Berea. We acknowledge their challenge and we accept these commitments as our responsibility for generations of Bereans.