Hillsdale College Wins Acclaim for Charting Its Own Path


What makes a rebel? Your hair? Clothes? Your screen saver or Apple playlist?

Maybe for some, but for decades, Hillsdale College has embodied rebellion in subtler but far more profound ways. It’s celebrated worldwide for zealously charting its own path and staying true to it, no matter the shifting tides of academia or society.

Consider: The small Michigan school proudly teaches the humanities, requiring students to read the Great Books, at a time when other colleges emphasize real-world learning and hide books by dead white men.

It’s refused to accept federal money for nearly 50 years because Hillsdale doesn’t want to be told what to do by Washington. Instead, students get an average of nearly $17,000 in gifts and loans from a privately created financial aid plan.

And Hillsdale makes zero excuses for being located in a northern town of 8,000 with few distractions.

“We think of those as advantages,” Hillsdale President Larry Arnn told The Wall Street Journal last week in a complimentary feature about him and the school.

“Because you need to come to college for the right reason. They’re not coming to our place for the beach. We like that—and manage to recruit, better and better.”

Arnn recently won the Bradley Prize, one of the highest honors among conservatives. And while the school is a bastion of conservatism whose campus includes statues of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Hillsdale is more interested in seeking free thinkers than demagogues.

“The college is not really about that,” Arnn told The Journal.

No doubt. Hillsdale isn’t for everyone. But it’s about the right ones, the students who savor ideas and embrace its rigorous standards.

Those are values shared at Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities, where doing things differently comes naturally. They are schools where world-renowned faculty encourages taking a different approach to problems — and learning.

Academically rigorous, the schools offer small class sizes. Their faculty are experts in their field and forge lifetime bonds with students who value communities over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.