Work is imbedded in the history of Berea College. From its earliest days, Berea has enabled students to contribute to their cost of education while gaining valuable work experience and serving the College and surrounding communities. Historically it also allowed the College to operate in a self-sustaining manner with students growing their own food and building their own living and learning facilities. As society has changed the nature of the work has changed however the underlying principles of the program have remained constant through the years.

The Labor Program originated in 1859 and was formalized into every student’s educational experience in 1906, when the Berea College Catalog declared that every student must contribute at least seven hours per week to the necessary work of the College. This was raised to ten hours in 1917; a requirement that remains in effect today.

The value of student work is reinforced in our Great Commitments, first published in 1969 and revised in 1993. The fourth of eight statements affirms Berea’s commitment, "To promote learning and serving in community through the student Labor Program, honoring the dignity and utlity of all work, mental and manual, and taking pride in work well done." The Labor Program has long been an integral component of Berea’s educational program and provides valuable opportunities for learning, service, and work well done.