Yes! The answer is yes. I know what you’re probably thinking. There’s a catch…. But no, this is in fact true. You can indeed work to pay your way through college. I remember when I first heard of work-colleges, I thought this was genius!

So what is a work-college? Work colleges are a cluster of liberal arts colleges that integrate work, learning and service while assisting students with reducing the costs of education. There are about eight work-colleges in the United States, but one stuck out to me specifically: Berea College. This school struck my interest because I grew up 15 minutes from the school and was familiar with the town of Berea, KY, where Berea College is located. I never even knew that Berea was a work-college until I did my research.

When I went back home to visit Berea College, I was in awe! The campus was lovely and filled with gorgeous greenery and various types of trees. Once I reached the admissions office, I began to observe my surroundings and got a family-filled vibe from my first impression. There was a group of students huddled in the living area of the admissions office. They each introduced themselves to me and told their stories of why they chose Berea. Each had their personalized story, but each chose Berea because it was affordable and offered a quality education.

The Tuition Promise scholarship at Berea offers free tuition and fees to every student that attends. Yes, every single student. This includes transfer and international students. For domestic students, the only requirement is to be Pell Grant eligible. This means the FAFSA is required.

Berea College offers a plethora of on and off campus work positions. Students are not limited to one specific type of job. The benefits of attending a work college is that you are more likely to graduate with little to no debt, while also earning work experience. Berea graduates will earn a work transcript with specifics about their work positions. After viewing Berea’s statistics, forty percent of Berea College graduates are debt free. How could anyone pass up an opportunity like this? Students are receiving quality education at an affordable cost.

I began to reminisce on the colleges I applied to while in high-school. I wish Berea was one of my options, if only I knew it was an option. This sparked a fire in me as a CAA coach to help students know what college options they have in their own towns. It’s also important that you contact and visit those schools to learn more about what they have to offer. Like the saying you can’t judge a book by its cover, well you can’t judge a college by its size. Small schools can offer big opportunities, so don’t dismiss colleges in your area.