Berea College

Berea College is repeatedly named as the nation’s top liberal arts college by Washington Monthly— an award that looks beyond standard criteria like test scores, economic data and peer surveys. Instead, Washington Monthly’s criteria focus on social mobility, excellence in education and community service.

Founded in 1855, Berea was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Berea awards four-year tuition scholarships to all its students, who because of financial circumstances cannot otherwise afford a high-quality, residential, liberal arts education. The work program has been an integral part of Berea’s educational program for more than a century.

Fast Facts: 

  • Abolitionist minister Reverend John G. Fee founded Berea College in 1855.
  • Berea is the first interracial and coeducational college in the South.
  • The College’s motto is “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth.” (Acts 17:26)
  • About 75% of Berea’s operating expenses are covered by the College’s endowment. The rest, about $5 million, must be raised annually.
  • All 1,600 students receive a Tuition Promise Scholarship, valued at $39,000 per year.
  • The Tuition Promise Scholarship means most students can graduate with little to no debt.
  • Berea College is one of eight federally recognized work colleges. All students work at campus jobs to help pay for books, housing and meals.
  • 78% of Berea College students come from Kentucky and Appalachia, and more than half are first-generation college students.
  • Berea College’s students come from families with an average annual income of less than $30,000.
  • In fall 2015, 60% of Berea College students had an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0, meaning their parents cannot afford to pay anything toward their education.
  • In fall 2015, 98% of domestic Berea College students received federal Pell grants.
  • Washington Monthly has named Berea College the No. 1 liberal arts college in the nation for the past two years (2016 and 2017), and No. 1 in affordability for three consecutive years (2015-2017).
  • Well-known alumni include Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History Month, and John Fenn, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • Berea has a commitment to environmental sustainability: “Deep Green” residence hall is the highest-scoring LEEDS-certified residence hall in the world; Boone Tavern is the first LEEDS-certified hotel in Kentucky; and the Ecovillage—a sustainable housing complex near campus—is the first of its kind in Kentucky.

By the numbers

87%
of Berea students live on campus.
0
annual amount collected in tuition.
58%
of Berea students in 2018 were first- generation college students.
75%
of operating budget revenue provided from endowment...
15,541
hours worked by students each week (2017-2018 academic year)
#1
liberal arts college in the nation
100%
First-time pass rate for national council licensure for nursing graduates
416
students on the Dean’s List in Fall 2018

Berea not only admits students, it hires each of them. Berea students all work a minimum of 10 hours a week in one of 112 labor departments that serve the institution. Students earn money, gain valuable work experience and learning, and contribute to the stewardship of College operations.

100% of Berea College students graduate with an academic and a labor transcript. And when combined with a resume, these transcripts provide the validation of a high- quality liberal arts education and the attainment of work/soft skills.

32,720
hours in 2016-2017 contributed by students to the community through service-learning courses and community service

Student Makeup

46%
of all Berea students in Fall 2018 were from a racial or ethnic category other than “white, non-Hispanic.”
71%
of first-year students in 2018 were from Berea’s Admissions Territory, consisting of Kentucky and most of Appalachia.
11%
of first-year Berea students 11% in Fall 2018 were Latino/ Hispanic.
28%
of first-year Berea students in Fall 2018 were African American.

OF THE DOMESTIC STUDENTS IN BEREA’S FALL 2018 INCOMING CLASS

54%
had an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0
97%
are Pell Grant recipients
438
enrolled students from 25 states, 2 territories, and 24 countries

Berea Made the Lists...

  • Berea named the No. 1 liberal arts college in the nation three consecutive years — by Washington Monthly, 2016-2018
  • Berea named “best value institution” - Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education, 2018
  • Top 50 Best Schools for African Americans — Essence Magazine, 2016
  • Top of the list for colleges with least student debt, U.S. News & World Report, 2016
  • #1 in a ordability, MONEY Magazine, 2017
  • Berea is #1 for the lowest average student debt at graduation, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, 2018
  • Princeton Review listed Berea in the top seven percent of “Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Schools That Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck” and named Berea among the Top Green Colleges for sustainability
  • One of the “Best 10 Colleges for the Money” —USA Today
  • Berea featured as “The Little College Where Tuition is Free and Every Student is Given a Job” — The Atlantic, 2018
  • CBS News featured Berea in a national story on Debt-Free Degrees — CBS This Morning: Saturday, 2019

Berea College has been recognized for and is focused on helping students graduate with little or no debt. According to the Student Loan Debt Report compiled by lendedu.com, the Berea College 2017 graduates are ranked:

#1
lowest student debt figure in Kentucky
#4
lowest student debt figures for all U.S. private institutions
#8
lowest student debt figures in the United States