Here's an example of employability for Shimer College graduates:
Have you even heard of these colleges?
You’re doing some college research, and it’s probably not very good college research, because you’ll hand your college counselor the same list of colleges that everyone has. Which colleges are you missing?
According to the Department of Education, there are over 7,000 institutions of higher education in the United States. Some are legit 4-year colleges. Some are legit, awesome four year colleges. And some are just weird. We’ll look at the really weird ones later; for now, let’s look at some four-year colleges that are doing some awesome work. Warning: these colleges take their mission to educate you seriously, so you’ll likely actually get an education. Also, some of them are very inexpensive or even free. So if you want to graduate with monster debt, you’ll need to look elsewhere. And all of them aren’t the usual continuation-of-high-school type colleges.
26 students, all-male until 2013, only offers a two-year program, located in the middle of no-where (45 miles from Bishop, CA). So in-the-middle-of-nowhere that they require a satellite to get on the internet. Still, the admission rate is around 10%, with 100-200 students vying for about 15 seats. It’s a work college, and most of the work is farming, but they also have cattle. The New Yorker described the style of education as “a mix of Christian mysticism, imperialist elitism, Boy Scout-like abstinence, and Progressive era learning-by-doing, with an emphasis on leadership training and the formation of strong character.” Also, there’s a Soviet seismic station and no tuition. Deep Springs was started by electricity magnate L.L. Nunn after his attempt to improve Cornell failed (well, in his opinion). It all sounds rather eclectic until you realize that you’re probably not going to do anything better with your life at 18. And sure, it’s a collection of weirdos, but weirdos also thought it perfectly sensible to strap a few million pounds of thrust to their butts and go to the moon. Check it.
First, this St. John’s is in Annapolis, not New York (that’s St. John’s University, and is actually kinda religious). Second, St. John’s can trace its roots back to 1696, which makes is the third oldest school in the U.S. (well, it was a prep school then, and Boston Latin was founded in 1635, then Harvard and William & Mary and a few other schools…OK, we were trying to make a point…it’s old.) St. John’s has been really sticking it to the man since 1937, when it adopted a Great Books program; St. John’s wanted nothing to do with all the fads sweeping through academia. The college has two campuses (Annapolis and Santa Fe), with about 450 student per. For the most part, there aren’t modern textbooks or lectures or exams or most of the stuff you’d find at any normal college. This is all hardcore reading, all the time. Students pretty much start at the dawn of written language and work their way through about 2,000 years of books. Then you graduate. And no, you don’t really get to pick which books. The school assigns grades but doesn’t give them out, unless you really want them, because St. John’s thinks grades are stupid. St. John’s approach to learning has been described as “medieval,” and one graduate complained that attending St. John’s makes everyone else boring. No dear, they were always boring. You just noticed. To sum up St. John’s: hardcore academic badassitude. Check it.
Shimer started as a women’s school in 1853, then hooked up with University of Chicago in 1896, morphed into a junior college in 1907, and finally emerged as a co-ed four year college in 1950. Now it’s on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago. Like St. John’s, Shimer is a Great Books school: you essentially spend four years reading about 200 books. Shimer only has about 17 faculty members, but it also only has about 140 students. Like St. John’s, it’s virtually impossible to graduate from Shimer without having been thoroughly educated; of course, the issue of employability is another question. Harvard once called to Shimer as one of the few colleges with an “ideal intellectual climate.” Also, their mascot is a flaming smelt, which is also a good name for a band. While Shimer is on the IIT campus, it really assumes that all of Chicago is the Shimer campus. Check it.
You want hardcore? Webb Institute has about 80 undergraduates and 10 faculty members, and everyone is focused on naval architecture or marine engineering. Students are assigned to one of four classrooms, desks/lecture in the front, drafting tables in the back. That’s your classroom for four years. Each winter, students are required to spend two months working: freshmen as mechanics in a shipyard, sophomores at sea, juniors and seniors at marine engineering firms. Any of that may occur anywhere in the world (well, probably not a desert). Dude, you’re going to graduate with some mad marine engineering skills, like it or not. Which kinda explains why pretty much everyone gets a job. Perhaps what’s coolest about Webb is that it’s free. No tuition. Nada. Very employable skills and no tuition along the way (foreign students pay $41,500 in annual tuition). Impossible to beat, assuming you like boats. The bad news is admission isn’t easy, despite the fact that no one has heard of the place. You’ll need SAT verbal scores around 700, math scores around 730, lots of high school science and math (an A in AP Calc helps – no one wants a boat that sinks), and general awesomeness to beat out at least 65% of other applicants. Finally, Webb is in Glen Clove, which unfortunately is still on Long Island, but it’s only about an hour outside of New York City (well, 2 hours with traffic, which is always). Check it.
New College is what happens when a bunch of folks with some money decide that other colleges suck (this first happened when the Black Regiment decided Harvard sucked and founded Yale). New College is often ranked as the best public liberal arts school and the best value in the U.S., has a the record number of Fulbright fellows (31 in the past 13 years), and, according to the Wall Street Journal, is the #2 public feeder school in the country for elite law, med, and business schools. This is also the school that has an official student constitution that ends with article 9 III/IV, and it reads: “The New College Student Alliance shall embrace the following symbols: a) [ ] as Mascot b) Palm Court as the Center of the Universe c) Our Motto: ‘There is more to running a starship than answering a bunch of damn fool questions” d) Our Mission: “That the natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder! That we should not settle for less!”
And if you actually go to the NCSA Constitution, you’ll find this right on page one:
With about 850 students, New College is the honors college of the State University system of Florida. To get in, you’ll need somewhere around a 4.1 weighted GPA and high 600s on math and verbal. Once there, you’ll find there are no grades (not even fake Harvard grades), a contract system (negotiated with your advisor each semester), three required independent projects and a required senior thesis. Tuition for Florida residents runs about $3,400 per semester. For the entire semester. For all your classes. At Brown, you don’t even get one class for that.
College of the Ozarks is, in fact, in the Ozarks (we know – totally unhelpful). In this case, the Missouri part. College of the Ozarks is serious about character education and believes that character is built, at least in part, through working. Also, Jesus helps. Students are required to work 15 hours per week during the year and two 40-hr weeks during breaks. The upside? It’s free. No tuition. The college’s official motto is “Hard Work U.” So it’s free, except nothing is free.
College of the Ozarks has about 1,400 undergraduates and produces one of the highest yields in the country (which is a decent measure of desirability). CampusBeast has a QuickStudy summary of the school here and College of the Ozarks took first place in our Most Desirable Colleges: Small College Edition. Check it.
And no, that hut in the lake isn’t freshmen housing. But it does look like a magnet for drunken freshmen, campus police, and a remorseful trip to the dean’s office.
With about 1,500 students in rural Michigan, Hillsdale’s small and fairly remote stature is overshadowed by its aggressive (dare we say principled?) approach to higher education. To say that Hillsdale is antagonistic to the Federal government would be to understate the situation. Hillsdale was founded in 1844 and immediately began admitting black students; it was also the second school in the country to confer four-year degrees on women. During the 1850s, the college’s president was also one of the founders of the Republican Party, advocated for the abolition of slavery, and spent much of the late 1800s promoting women’s rights. Seems like a fairly radical place, eh? Rather famously, Hillsdale refused to play in the 1956 Tangerine Bowl because it was segregated. Then, in the 1970s, Hillsdale told the Federal government to mind its own business; Hillsdale opposed including race in deciding admissions, and informed the Feds that the college would neither collect nor submit student race data. Predictably, lawsuits ensued, and eventually the Supreme Court determined that the Federal government was entitled to information on students who received Federal student aid. By 1984, Hillsdale had withdrawn from all Federal aid programs, and by 2007 had withdrawn from all State programs. Currently, all student aid is provided directly by the school and private funding sources. Hillsdale does not track or maintain any data on student race, and it’s only one of two colleges to refuse to track and report race. And just to ensure the Feds know that Hillsdale isn’t going away, the college opened “The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship” in 2010; the Kirby Center is about a five minute walk from Congress in Washington, D.C.
Hillsdale has a modified Great Books program, and has been called a “conservative” school, but that really misses the point, particularly if both Hillsdale and Bob Jones land on the same “conservative colleges” list. If Hillsdale is “conservative,” it’s due to its approach to politics and economics, not religion. Accordingly, Hillsdale’s missions statement asserts that “The College values the merit of each unique individual, rather than succumbing to the dehumanizing, discriminatory trend of so called “social justice” and “multicultural diversity,” which judges individuals not as individuals, but as members of a group and which pits one group against other competing groups in divisive power struggles.” Hillsdale seems to have no problem going against the tide – from the 1850s to now. The CampusBeast QuickStudy on Hillsdale is here. Of course, you can check the school out for yourself.
Deep Springs, St. John’s, Shimer, Webb Institute, New College, College of the Ozarks, Hillsdale: there’s something for everyone in that group of eclectic colleges. Well, except maybe this:
Of course, none of those eclectic colleges have athletes suing to unionize either, because at Deep Springs, St. John’s, Shimer, Webb Institute, New College, College of the Ozarks, and Hillsdale, there’s no confusion about why you’re attending college. That, and only two of them even field a football team.