Berea College Draper building


About Berea College

A College Like No Other

Ranked among the best

5-star rating
Berea College received Kentucky’s only 5-Star rating by Money Magazine

No. 2
Washington Monthly magazine has ranked Berea College the No. 2 liberal arts college in the nation in its 2023 College Guide and Rankings

No. 20
Berea College is ranked No. 20 overall in the U.S., according to the new Wall Street Journal/College Pulse college rankings.

Berea College is a top-ranked liberal arts college that hasn’t charged tuition since 1892. A federally recognized work college, students work at least 10 hours per week at campus jobs. Berea only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources, making it the most selective institution in Kentucky.

Founded in 1855 by ardent abolitionists and radical reformers, Berea College was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Guided by the scriptural motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth” (Acts 17:26), our founders envisioned a school open to students of all races and genders even before the Civil War. That inclusive spirit is still alive and well today at Berea.

The unique combination of rigorous academics and a Labor Program prepares students for life after college as they graduate not only with a degree, but also four years of progressive work experience. Students finish college with an academic transcript and a labor transcript, detailing both the knowledge and soft skills employers are looking for and the practical experience that only comes through previous employment. This gives Berea College graduates a leg up as they enter the professional world.


  • No. 20 nationally: Berea College is ranked No. 20 overall in the U.S., according to the new Wall Street Journal/College Pulse college rankings.
  • 5-star rating: Berea College is one of only 34 colleges nationwide—and the only Kentucky college—to receive Money Magazine’s highest rating. The magazine rated 736 colleges with above-average graduation rates on quality, affordability and future earning potential.
  • No. 2 for Best Liberal Arts College: Berea College moved up three spots from its 2022 ranking in the Washington Monthly College Guide and Rankings.  
  • No. 1 in social mobility by Washington Monthly: A degree from Berea College puts graduates on the career path to increased earning potential. 
  • No. 22 in service by Washington Monthly: Service to each other and the community are part of Berea College’s Great Commitments. We’re built to serve.
  • No. 1 in service-learning by U.S. News and World Report: College presidents, chief academic officers, deans of students and deans of admissions at more than 1,500 colleges voted Berea the best in service-learning. Schools that use volunteering as an instructional strategy and relate it to coursework create valuable experiences for students.
  • No. 8 in First-year Experiences (tie) by U.S. News and World Report: Orientation is just an introduction to college. Berea College designs first-year experiences to help students achieve success, which contributes to increased retention.
  • No. 3 in Co-ops/Internships by U.S. News and World Report: Internships provide unique opportunities for exploration of career interests. Berea College offers unmatched levels of support to ensure students land the internship of their dreams.
  • No. 16 (tie) in Best Undergraduate Teaching by U.S. News and World Report: Berea’s 9:1 student to teacher ratio, combined with caring, dedicated instructors, is the perfect combination to help students reach their academic goals.
  • No. 3 in Most Innovative Schools by U.S. News and World Report: Change and agility drive innovation. New campus facilities, a redesigned curriculum, technology upgrades, a thriving campus life and engaged and energized faculty make Berea among the most innovative schools. 
  • No. 5 in Top Performers in Social Mobility by U.S. News and World Report: Berea College students typically come from low-income families. A college degree is the catalyst for transforming their lives and their earning potential.

Supportive Environment

Students participating in a Career Development fashion show

The average family income of a Berea student is less than $32,000 per year. In addition, more than half of our students are the first in their families to go to college. These shared characteristics mean that low-income, first-generation students are never alone at Berea College because they all face the same challenges associated with attending college. They support each other, and the College itself is designed to support this particular cohort of students. Because of this support, we graduate this demographic of students at a much higher rate than the national average.

Our goal is that our alumni’s children will not qualify to go here. We accomplish this goal through supportive programming for students as they enter, as they go through, and as they exit their college experience. We offer summer programming to help new students get acclimated to college life, study abroad and internship experiences that bolster their personal and professional experiences, a low student-to-faculty ratio, and even provide funds for professional clothing and transitioning to life after college.  

The Kinship of All People

Berea College was founded on the idea that all people are more alike than they are different, and the apparent differences that sometimes divide society are only surface level. At Berea, we reach across difference to find our common humanity. In doing so, we have created a diverse campus where our students and campus community can learn from one another in a spirit of kinship. Though our primary service region is Appalachia and the urban centers found within and near the mountains, our students come from all over the United States and the world.

In addition, Berea has established centers on campus where students can explore their identities and learn more about various cultures. These centers include the Black Cultural Center, the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, the Francis and Louise Hutchins Center for International Education, the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education, Espacio Cultural Latinx and the bell hooks center.

Learning, Labor and Service

All Berea College students have the opportunity to develop intellectually, professionally and personally through learning, labor and service. With more than 30 fields of study and a weekly convocation series, students expand their minds and horizons. The Labor Program allows students to not only develop professional skillsets but also complements their chosen major(s) with real-world experience. Also, students can give back while developing personally through service-learning opportunities at the Center for Excellence in Learning through Service (CELTS), Bonner Scholars, the Willis D. Weatherford Jr., Campus Christian Center or the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center.    

Students serving with CELTS on Mountain Day

Working Toward a Sustainable Future

The effects of global climate change are real and devastating. And caring about people goes beyond caring for their person. We must care for the environment that people live in as well. Berea College is a leader in environmental sustainability efforts with educational programming, sustainable building practices and major demonstration projects. Berea offers a major in Sustainability and Environmental Studies and even housing in our Ecovillage. New and renovated buildings on campus are designed according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. In addition, Berea College is home to one of the oldest continuously operating educational farms in the nation with a focus on sustainable farming, as well as a 9,000-acre forest, home to our Forestry department.

Berea College has even built a hydroelectric station along the Kentucky River to demonstrate the feasibility of clean energy production—becoming the country’s first college to complete such a project. A second hydroelectric station is under construction further /down the river.

The number of Estill County homes powered by electricity generated by the Matilda Hamilton Fee Hydroelectric Station.

Total head of cattle managed by the College Farm team entirely on pasture to produce grass-finished beef.

Educational programs and presentations hosted by the Forestry Outreach Center since 2018.

The Great Commitments

Everything Berea College does is guided by what we call The Great Commitments, which is a mission statement in eight parts. They include a commitment to educational opportunity, the liberal arts, inclusive Christianity, the dignity of labor, the kinship of all people, gender equality, supportive and sustainable living and serving Appalachia.