Berea College offers a high-quality education to academically promising students with limited economic resources. Founded in 1855, Berea was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Today, Berea is consistently ranked as one of the leading private liberal arts colleges in the USA:
- Kiplinger’s Personal Finance: A 2016 Best Value College
- MONEY Magazine: #1 in Affordability
- Washington Monthly: 2016 and 2017: Best National Liberal Arts College and Best Bang for the Buck
- U.S. News and World Report: Top of List for Colleges with Least Student Debt, 2016
- Essence Magazine: Listed in the Top 50 Best Schools for African Americans, 2016
- USA Today: One of the “Best 10 Colleges for the Money”
- Princeton Review: Featured in “Colleges that Pay You Back, 2016 Edition”
Berea earns this recognition by focusing on rigorous academic programs coupled with a unique work program, allowing students to graduate with little or no student loan debt.
Many factors distinguish Berea College, including:
- No student pays tuition; each student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship worth about $100,000 over four years.
- One of only nine 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, which 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.
- 1,600 undergraduates, representing nearly every state and more than 60 countries.
- More than 70 percent of students are from the Appalachian region and Kentucky.
- The mean family income of a first-year Berea student is under $30,000.
- 1 of 3 students are of color.
- 8 percent of the student body are from countries other than the U.S.
- 96 percent of domestic first-year students are eligible for federal Pell grants.
Berea’s educational experience provides students the knowledge and skills to successfully navigate the world. Berea provides a stimulating and challenging environment. Whether in the classroom, attending a Convocation, interning, studying abroad or linking labor with academic goals, the educational experience is truly like no other. Students have experiential learning opportunities in and out of the classroom:
- Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees are offered in 32 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.
- About 160 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.
- 130 full-time faculty.
- Over 90 percent of full-time faculty hold the highest degree in their fields.
- 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
- 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.
- 41 percent of the class of 2017 graduated debt-free. Those who did have debt had an average amount of $5,998 (nationwide average is $37,000).
- Gifts to the Berea Fund support full-tuition scholarships, labs, textbooks, classrooms, ongoing operations and more. Every dollar is reinvested in the College so that students receive a high-quality liberal arts education.
- About $4.6 million must be raised annually for the College’s operating expenses.
- 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. The College assists students with the cost of housing and meals based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The College only offers students loans as a last resort.
Student education at Berea involves academic and work components, and there are transcripts for both.
- Students gain valuable workplace experience, earn money for books, food and other expenses, and their appreciation for the dignity and utility of labor is enhanced.
- Every student works 10-15 hours per week while carrying a full academic load.
- Students choose work options in more than 100 college and off-campus programs.
Social/cultural activities augment the academic and labor 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 7 men’s and 7 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 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.
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 American Studies Department, supporting collaborations in interracial education, equality and justice and shared commitments to cultural understanding.
Berea produces a significant variety of leaders in fields such as education, science, healthcare, entertainment, law, business and government.
- Nearly 18,000 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 is among the most energy-efficient residence halls in the world. It earned LEED Platinum-Plus 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.
- 9,000 acres of forest are managed sustainably. 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 labor and learning experience possible for promising young people from Appalachia and beyond.
- A privately supported, nondenominational college, Berea relies on gifts from alumni and friends and on income from the College’s endowment.
- Berea’s endowment funds 75 percent of the education and general operating budget. 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 $2,500 per student to provide the Tuition Promise Scholarship for every admitted student. This totals over $4.5 million dollars to be raised every year for the Berea Fund.
- Gifts from 11,297 donors (alumni, friends and organizations) enabled Berea to provide 1,663 students with a No-Tuition Promise in 2016-2017.
- A group of 933 current Berea students called the Berea Patrons raised $27,149 in 2016-2017 by contributing to the Berea Fund from their own labor earnings, building a culture of philanthropy for Berea’s future.
Berea offers varied opportunities for all interested students to create and perform including:
- Music – 4 choral groups and 7 instrumental 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.
- 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 Region
Berea provides outreach to the Appalachian region through federally funded programs and student-led service projects.
- Partners For Education houses 10 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 Visitor Center & Shoppe is the starting point for three student-led walking tours. The historical tour provides an overview of the College, the craft tour gives a behind-the-scenes look at our craft industry, and the eco tour explores buildings and facilities that demonstrate the many sustainable features of our campus.
Prospective students and their parents may visit the campus Monday-Friday (8:00am – 5:00pm) by appointment with the Admissions Office.
You may schedule a tour by filling out an online visit request form or by calling the Campus Visit Registration Center at 1-800-326-5948.
Unless otherwise noted, the statistics contained on this page are based on the Berea College Fact Book.