Quick: Name a college with statues of not only Abraham Lincoln but also Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
It can only be one: Hillsdale College, the so-called “shining city on the hill” for political conservatives, who unabashedly revere the founding fathers and don’t apologize for a core curriculum that revolves around books by so-called Dead White Men.
Tucked away in central Michigan, the school is attracting attention yet again in the first few weeks of President Donald J. Trump’s administration. The New York Times and others are shining a light on the Michigan jewel in part because it underscores the debate within conservative intellectual circles about what to make of Trump.
Proudly different, Hillsdale attracts students from throughout the country because it provides world-class education at a bargain. Even though it eschews federal money — making students ineligible for Pell grants — 95 percent of its students received grants of more than $17,000 this year, dramatically lowering its advertised $35,000 cost of tuition, room and board.
The education is without parallel. Unlike other schools that seem ashamed of teaching liberal arts, Hillsdale embraces it. For two years, students study the classics, taking more than a dozen mandatory classes on topics from western heritage, American heritage, biology and chemistry.
The classes help students forge tight bonds with faculty and administrators. Heck, the New York Times noted the school president, Larry P. Arnn, “has been known to swoop down on hapless victims in the cafeteria and pose the core question of the Classics: “What is The Good?”
Is it for everyone? Perhaps not. But what makes Hillsdale awesome is that, in this day of trying to please everyone, it’s proudly unique and charts its own path.
That’s something of a specialty at Hillsdale College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.
Proudly small, their students don’t get lost in the crowd like those at big state schools. And unlike public universities, students actually graduate in four years, not only saving a year of tuition but also giving them an extra year of earnings in their careers.
They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.
Be bold. Be different. Go independent.
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