Berea College offers a high-quality education to academically promising students with limited economic resources. It awards every student a Tuition Promise Scholarship so that no Berea student ever pays tuition. Founded in 1855, Berea is the first interracial and coeducational college in the South and consistently ranks among the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges.
- No. 1 “Best Bang for the Buck” College, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020; No. 3 “Best National Liberal Arts College,” 2020, Washington Monthly
- Listed among the Best 386 Colleges in the U.S., Princeton Review, 2021 Guide
- No. 1 “Best Value College,” Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education, 2019
- No.1 “Best Value College” for lowest average graduating debt, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, 2019
- Recognized as a Circle of Excellence Gold Chapter, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, 2020
- Top producer of Gilman Scholars among colleges with enrollment under 5,000 students
- Featured in the Guide to Green Colleges, Princeton Review, 2019 edition
- Ranked No. 1 among top 30 Sustainable College-Run Farms, College Values Online, 2018
- Nursing Program rated No. 1 Best Value in Kentucky, Nursing Explorer (website), 2019
Many factors distinguish Berea College, including:
- No student pays tuition; each student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship worth almost $200,000 over four years.
- Ninety-three percent of 2018-2019 graduates had either studied abroad, had a paid internship, engaged in research mentored by a faculty member, or taken a service-learning course.
- One of only eight federally recognized Work Colleges in the United States.
- Known nationally for its innovative and outstanding service-learning program.
- Extensive collection of materials and non-commercial musical recordings documenting the history and culture of Southern Appalachia.
- Outreach to Appalachia through federally funded programs and student-led service projects.
- Multiple Compton, Fulbright, Truman, Udall and Watson fellowship winners.
- The EDGE (Empowering a Dynamic Generation through Education) Program provides all first-year students with a laptop computer that is theirs to keep upon graduation.
Since its founding, Berea has welcomed students from “all nations and climes” to learn and work here.
- 1,652 undergraduates, representing 41 states, two U.S. territories and 76 countries other than the U.S.
- More than 71 percent of students are from the Appalachian region and Kentucky.
- The mean family income of a first-year Berea student is under $30,000.
- In any given year, approximately 60 percent of first-year admitted students have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC—based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA) of $0. Forty-nine percent of 2018-2019 graduates had zero student loan debt. The median debt of all 2018-2019 graduates was $305, compared to an average nationwide debt of $29,200.
- More than 40 percent of students identify as a person of color.
- Nine percent of the student body are from countries other than the U.S.
- Ninety-eight percent of domestic first-year students are eligible for federal Pell grants.
Berea’s educational experience provides students the knowledge and skills to navigate the world successfully. The College provides a challenging yet supportive learning environment. Whether in the classroom, attending a Convocation, interning, studying abroad or linking work with academic goals, the educational experience is truly like no other. Students have experiential learning opportunities in and out of the classroom:
- Students can earn Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 33 majors. There are also select professional programs, independent, student-designed majors and a dual-degree engineering program.
- 15 teacher education programs.
- 16 national and international honor societies.
- More than 170 students study, intern or teach abroad each year, most with the generous support of education abroad scholarships or grants.
The College retains excellent faculty from prestigious graduate programs across the nation and the world.
- Berea has 139 full-time faculty.
- Over 93 percent of full-time faculty hold the highest degree in their fields.
- The student-to-faculty ratio is 10:1.
- Berea provides Tuition Promise Scholarships to each student through its endowment and the generous support of alumni, friends, organizations and others who believe that family incomes should not dictate students’ outcomes.
- Forty-nine percent of 2018-2019 graduates had zero student loan debt.
- Gifts to the Berea Fund make the Tuition Promise Scholarship possible. Every dollar is reinvested in the College so that students receive a high-quality liberal arts education.
- Berea must raise $4.6 million annually to close the gap that remains after earnings from the endowment and federal and state grants.
- Support Berea’s mission with a generous gift.
Because of Berea’s Tuition Promise Scholarships, students pay no tuition and graduate with little or no debt. Since the cost of tuition is already covered, students are able to use grants, such as the Pell grant, to help pay for housing and meals. Berea College only offers loans to students as a last resort when they cannot pay their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
As a federally recognized Work College, Berea doesn’t just admit students; it hires them. Student education at Berea involves academic and work components, both deeply grounded in learning.
- Students gain valuable workplace experience, earn money for books, food and other expenses, and their appreciation for the dignity and utility of work is enhanced.
- In any given year, approximately 60 percent of currently enrolled students participate in the Berea Patrons program by making a gift to the College from their work earnings. Since the Patrons program began in 2014, students have contributed more than $175,000 to the College, beginning their philanthropic journeys.
- Every student works 10-15 hours per week while carrying a full academic load.
- Students choose work options in more than 100 college positions.
Every student receives not only an academic transcript but also a work transcript that lists their positions held, performance evaluations, and special distinctions.
Social/cultural activities augment the academic and work programs. Students also learn valuable leadership and interaction skills:
- Convocations feature notable national and international speakers, scholars and performers.
- A wellness program encourages healthy lifestyles.
- Through NCAA Division III, students can participate in seven men’s and seven women’s sports.
- More than 60 student clubs and organizations enhance student life.
Curricular/co-curricular activities are based on Berea’s Great Commitments mission statement. Centers ensure that each Commitment is carried out, enhancing the Berea experience for students.
The Black Cultural Center (BCC) provides services to support the recruitment, retention and graduation of Black students at Berea College.
The Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service (CELTS) focuses on student service and community engagement. Students serve in volunteer programs, facilitate academic service-learning courses and work at local non-profit organizations and schools. CELTS also houses the Bonner Scholars Program.
The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), fosters the personal, intellectual and professional growth of students, staff and instructors through writing resources, faculty development, teaching and learning assistant programs, and student-faculty partnerships.
The Francis and Louise Hutchins Center for International Education (CIE) fosters understanding of and appreciation for “all peoples of the earth,” offering education abroad opportunities, international student/scholar services, faculty/curriculum development and annual campus programming.
The Loyal Jones Appalachian Center (LJAC) fosters the Great Commitment to Appalachia, developing service-oriented leaders and integrating educational programs; illuminating Appalachia, its people and cultures; and assisting communities, organizations and citizens to work toward the future they envision.
The Willis D. Weatherford, Jr. Campus Christian Center offers opportunities for worship, weekly prayer, interfaith dialogue and intellectual and spiritual engagement with the Christian faith through Convocations, lectures, workshops and spiritual retreats.
The Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education works closely with the Black Cultural Center and the African and African American Studies Department, supporting collaborations in interracial education, equality and justice and shared commitments to cultural understanding.
The Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center offers an inclusive space for historically underrepresented individuals, including but not limited to women, LGBTQIA+ and sex and gender non-conforming students to find respite. The center also offers other programming centered around issues concerning gender and sexuality.
The bell hooks Institute documents the life and work of acclaimed intellectual, feminist theorist, cultural critic, artist and writer bell hooks. The Institute strives to promote the cause of ending domination through understanding the ways systems of exploitation and oppression intersect through critical thinking, teaching, events and conversation.
Berea produces a significant variety of leaders in fields such as education, science, healthcare, entertainment, law, business and government.
- More than 19,000 alumni live in all 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and in 75 nations.
- Distinguished alumni include: John Fenn, 2002 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry; G. Samuel Hurst, physicist and inventor of touch-screen technology; Juanita M. Kreps, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce; George Lester, developer of the catalytic converter; Jack Roush, automotive engineer, designer and owner of Roush Racing; and Carter G. Woodson, the father of black history.
Sustainable Campus Features
Many of Berea College’s buildings and facilities demonstrate sustainable living and environmental stewardship, including:
- Lincoln Hall was the first building in Kentucky to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
- Deep Green Residence Hall was the “greenest” residence hall in the world when it opened in 2013. It earned LEED Platinum-Plus certification as well as Living Building Petal certification.
- The historic Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant was Kentucky’s first green hotel, attaining LEED Gold Certification.
- Kentucky’s first ecological village is a sustainable housing and learning complex at Berea College. Ecovillage consumes 75 percent less energy and water per capita than conventional housing.
- The College uses sustainability best practices to manage its 9,000-plus acre forest. Over 1,200 acres of farmland (including the College garden and greenhouse) are used to grow local foods and provide learning opportunities in agriculture and natural resources.
Generous support from alumni and friends makes Berea’s unique work and learning experience possible for promising young people from Appalachia and beyond.
- A privately supported, nonsectarian institution, Berea College relies on gifts from alumni and friends and on income from the College’s endowment.
- Berea’s endowment funds nearly 75 percent of the education and general operating budget. While other schools use tuition as a key revenue source, Berea relies on donors to make education possible for the students it serves.
- Berea must raise $3,000 per student to provide the Tuition Promise Scholarship for every admitted student. This totals over $4.6 million dollars to be raised every year for the Berea Fund.
- Gifts from nearly 11,000 donors (alumni, friends and organizations) enabled Berea to provide 1,660 students with a No-Tuition Promise today.
Berea offers varied opportunities for all interested students to create and perform including:
- Music – 10 music ensembles. Presser Music Building offers state-of-the-art studios, classrooms, a recital hall, rehearsal rooms and practice rooms. Kentucky’s largest 56-bell carillon, housed in Draper Tower, provides concerts.
- Theatre – Berea College Theatre Laboratory mounts full-length and one-act plays directed by faculty, students and visiting artists. All performances take place in the Jelkyl Drama Center – either in the 250-seat McGaw Theatre or in the black box Musser Theatre. Ranked among the top 25 Bachelor of Arts theatre programs in the nation for 2018-2019.
- Dance – Offers 25 classes in dance and a dance minor. Ten student dance groups perform a variety of styles.
- Visual Art – Offers gallery space for year-round student and faculty art exhibits. Permanent art collection display includes the Dimitrie Berea Gallery, dedicated to the internationally recognized post-impressionist painter.
Service to the Appalachian Region
Berea provides outreach to the Appalachian region through federally funded programs and student-led service projects.
- Brushy Fork Leadership Institute provides established and emerging leaders with opportunities to enhance their skills, gain innovation perspectives and create connections with others working on similar issues. A key principle of the Institute is to honor the voice and vision of local people, empowering leaders to transform their communities.
- Grow Appalachia partners with communities in six states throughout central Appalachia to combat food insecurity and malnutrition by empowering families in Appalachia to create healthy, resilient and economically viable food systems. Funded by John Paul DeJoria, founder of Paul Mitchell company in 2010, Grow Appalachia has helped communities grow more an estimated 2.9 million pounds of food to date. Berea Kids Eat is an initiative of Grow Appalachia that launched in 2018 to provide year-round meals to combat food insecurity in children in Berea. When schools closed during the pandemic, Berea Kids Eat filled the gap, providing nearly 75,000 meals to families in the community.
- The Loyal Jones Appalachian Center (LJAC) fosters the Great Commitment to Appalachia, developing service-oriented leaders and integrating educational programs; illuminating Appalachia, its people and cultures; and assisting communities, organizations and citizens to work toward the future they envision.
- Partners For Education houses nine federally funded programs (e.g., GEAR UP Appalachia, the Promise Neighborhood Initiative, and Upward Bound) designed to support Berea’s commitment to serving students of Appalachia.
- Students in the Sustainability and Environmental Studies program participate in the development of sustainable communities throughout Appalachia.
The City of Berea (population 15,000) is 35 miles south of Lexington, where Kentucky’s Bluegrass region meets the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains. Kentucky’s legislature designated Berea the “Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky.” The College is located near the center of town and is easily accessible by car from I-75. Driving time from Louisville, Kentucky; Knoxville, Tennessee; or Cincinnati, Ohio is about two hours. Commercial airline service is available in Lexington.
Visitor Center & Shoppe
The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily interrupted our public tour schedule.
For the latest information on tour availability and tour times, please see our guest website.
Admissions and Tours
Even though the global pandemic has altered the campus visit experience at colleges nationwide, we are pleased to offer both on-campus and virtual visit experiences. To learn about the wide variety of visit options, please go to the Admissions website or call the Campus Visit Reservation Center at 1-800-326-5948.
Unless otherwise noted, the statistics contained on this page are based on the Berea College Fact Book.