ACA Facilities Main Lobby

About the ACA

The Appalachian College Association is a non-profit consortium of 35 private four-year liberal arts institutions spread across the central Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Collectively these higher education institutions serve nearly 65,000 students.

The mission of the Association is to serve Appalachian communities through the transformational work of its faculty, staff, and students. Programs offered by the Association are designed to promote cooperation and collaboration among member institutions, and to support scholarly and creative activities of faculty and students.

The ACA developed from a grant-funded project at the University of Kentucky over a 10-year period between 1980-1989. In 1990, the ACA became an independent organization, and in 1993 became its own tax-exempt classification under Section 501(c)(3) of the 1986 Internal Revenue Service Code. The ACA's purpose is exclusively educational under this designation. Governance is by a board comprised of the presidents of all member institutions, and an executive committee with representation from presidents and chief academic officers.

The ACA has enjoyed affiliation with six research universities in the region: the University of Kentucky, University of North Carolina, University of Tennessee, West Virginia University, University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech. Representatives of these institutions have assisted the ACA in reviewing grant and fellowship applications, conducting workshops and providing technical assistance.

The assets of the ACA have grown to over $30 million due primarily to the generosity of the foundations that have continued to fund its programs to benefit central Appalachia.

ACA member institutions are critical contributors to their local and regional communities. Each campus serves as a “beacon” for its particular region, providing its students and its surrounding community access to exceptional educational and cultural experiences, often in areas facing serious economic distress and lacking in relative educational attainment. Serving nearly 65,000 students annually, with over 3,000 full-time faculty, ACA schools collectively generate nearly $1.3 billion in direct annual expenditures, further supporting Central Appalachia.

The colleges and universities of the Appalachian College Association work diligently to make higher education available to the students of this region. According to most recent IPEDS data, over 77% of member institutions furnished institutional aid to all or virtually all of its undergraduate students; over 91% provided aid to more than 90% of these students. Member institutions are dedicated to making post-secondary education available. Nearly half of the ACA schools had first-year cohorts receiving federal Pell grants at levels greater than 50%; 80% of our institutions had rates greater than 40%. These data demonstrate ACA institutions' commitment to supporting students with financial need.