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So, why does Berea College have a Craft Program?

At its most basic, the reason Berea College continues to be one of the few liberal arts institutions with a Craft Program is to offer even deeper, richer, and life-changing learning experiences for its students and, in this case, those talented artisans engaged in teaching their craft. Berea has long aspired to provide its students a holistic educational experience that involves the head, the heart, and the hands:


Certainly, all facets of classroom and laboratory learning provide our students with the highest quality of head learning. Berea College has not charged a single student tuition since 1892, because the students it serves are of high academic promise but very limited financial means. Berea students come from families who could never afford the cost of a high-quality education. The College, therefore relies, on the generosity of others to pay for educating students today, tomorrow, and forever. A Berea education is not just tuition free, and therefore of dubious quality; it is recognized as one of the finest nationwide, on a par with national elite institutions that charge dearly for such an experience. At Berea, we like to remark that we offer the best education that money can’t buy. Students who work in our Student Craft program actively participate in designing new products that may eventually wind up in this Catalog and perhaps your own home.


Berea’s historic mission of inclusivity serves to educate its students—and indeed all those who support it—with heart learning. Our founder, the Rev. John G. Fee, and his wife, Matilda Hamilton Fee, envisioned an institution that would educate female and male, Black and white students together, living and learning across their differences to create a Beloved Community. That vision is so relevant today, but can you imagine that vision in 1855, nurtured in a state in which it was legal for one human being to own another, six years before the start of the Civil War? That was audacious and radical for its time, and it made Berea the South’s first interracial and coeducational college. John and Matilda Fee’s vision, hence, is a powerful learning opportunity for all Bereans today. That history becomes kinesis for us all as we endeavor to make the world a more just and equitable place. You’ll see the manifestation of this mission, we hope, in the pieces so lovingly produced. Students and staff in Student Craft put mission and values in action as they explore identity, sustainability, the kinship of all people, and gender equality—all facets of Berea’s Great Commitments.


Berea’s rich educational experience is also augmented by its status as one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges. All students at Berea work 10-15 hours each week and are paid for their labor, which helps them pay for personal expenses and other things—even housing and meals on campus—allowing Berea students to graduate with the lowest student loan debt in the country. On average, almost half of its graduates never have to borrow money to pay for their undergraduate education.

Every student at Berea College comes with a story—sometimes these tug strongly at your heart, but most always these stories involve grit, determination, and persistence in moving out of poverty and into the realm of a college graduate. Such a move changes not only a graduate’s life but also changes the lives of family members present and future.

Every item our students create also involves a story—one of learning, of creativity and design, and perhaps most of all, pride: pride that grit, determination, and persistence in a studio or workshop can lead to an heirloom that is purchased and gifted through generations. These stories make each item here even more precious.

By supporting Berea’s Student Craft Program, you champion all facets of learning at Berea— head, heart and hand. Your support helps ensure that Berea College continues to offer educational opportunity to students of high academic promise who could never afford the high cost of college. Your Student Craft purchase is an investment in lives of great promise.