Educational Opportunity
Berea College students in classroom

Educational Opportunity

Educational Opportunity

Berea College commits itself to provide an educational opportunity for students of all races, primarily from Appalachia, who have great promise and limited economic resources.

Since its founding, Berea College has sought to offer access to a top-tier liberal arts education to those who cannot afford it. Our unique financial model means that no student ever pays a dime for the cost of tuition. For most of our history, we have provided this access to deserving students whose barriers include not only economics, but also societal prejudices. Interracial and coeducational before the Civil War, Berea College has continued its unwavering commitment to equality and social justice throughout its existence.

The first commitment expresses our belief that all persons, regardless of means, race, or class, deserve the chance to realize their full potential. Determination and character are valued here, as we provide a world-class educational opportunity for all of our students.

Access without support is not opportunity.

Vincent Tinto

No Tuition. No Kidding.

The average annual cost of going to a private, four-year college in the United States is over $49,000. The average tuition and fees alone—over $36,000—exceed the total annual income of many economically disadvantaged families, especially in Appalachia. At Berea College, no student has paid tuition since 1892.

This “No-Tuition Promise” is still being fulfilled over 130 years later. As the cost of higher education increases and becomes more and more out of reach for economically disadvantaged students, we maintain our commitment to educational opportunity in Appalachia. At no time in history has it been so important to keep our promise. 96 percent of Berea students qualify for Federal Pell Grants, which are awarded to students with financial need. Thanks to the No-Tuition Promise, and a work program that enables our students to earn money to offset their other expenses, debt is much less of a challenge for Berea students than at other schools. Nearly half graduate with no debt and the rest borrow less than $5,000 on average, compared to a national average of more than $35,000.

of students graduated with zero student loan debt in 2021-22.

The national average for student loan debt is $35,000.

What We Mean By Opportunity

It is not uncommon these days for colleges and universities across the nation to admit students with economic need and offer them scholarships. Getting into college is only the first step to providing an opportunity for education. Each population we serve has its own unique challenges to graduating. For first-generation and economically disadvantaged students especially, the likelihood of graduating within six years is low. Nationally, just under 11 percent of these students walk across the stage. At Berea, our graduation rate with this group of students is six times as high.

Who We Serve

First-Generation Students Fall 2022

Most Berea students will be the first in their families to earn a four-year college degree

Percentage of our students who are Pell Grant recipients

First-year students from Kentucky and Appalachia in Fall 2021

Build brighter futures in the region

We owe our success to the abundance of support tailored specifically to this cohort of students. Generous donations and grants allow the College to add programming to address the obstacles of preparation faced by our students. The Office of Student Success and Transition, for example, offers support services that help our students transition to college life and succeed. That office houses the Emerging Scholars Program, which offers workshops, mentoring, and secondary academic advisers to enable students to work through the unique challenges they face.

In addition, because our students come from similar economic backgrounds, they are more likely to form friendships with those who are familiar with their experiences. These informal support structures provide a sense of community and are important for their success.

Going forward, we commit to continuously assessing and improving our student support structures and to identifying gaps in the support we provide so we can address them. These structures are particularly critical as we strive to serve high-risk populations of students, such as first-generation students and those from distressed counties.

Shanita, Berea College student
Shanita's Story

Nobody knew the junior class president was homeless.

Shanita wrote a poem titled “Home,” which spoke to the ‘home’ she found just being in her mother’s presence.

Julie, Berea College Student
Julie's Story

What do McKee, Malaysia, Indonesia, the White House, and St. Petersburg have in common?

The answer: Julie had been to all of them before even finishing college.