This week classes began again at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It will be interesting to see how the school fares as it tries to reestablish itself.
Ohio is a state of terrific colleges, and Antioch is one of the most well-known. It was founded in 1852, and it has a long history of being a ground-breaking institution. It was non-denominational in an era when most colleges had a religious affiliation. It was at the forefront of the abolitionist movement. It was one of the first American colleges to accept women and African-Americans.
In the 20th century Antioch again was at the forefront of educational experimentation and change — and, unfortunately for the institution, some of its experiments didn’t work. The undergraduate college at Yellow Springs experienced continuing financial problems and after enrollment declined to only a few hundred students the Board of Trustees decided to close the Yellow Springs campus. The school closed in 2008.
These are not easy times to reopen a college. Many people are talking about “higher education bubbles” and questioning the cost and value of a liberal arts education. I hope Antioch makes it — and not just because its success is important to the pretty little town of Yellow Springs. Antioch has made a real contribution to higher education in America. It would be a shame to see the voice of change and experimentation that emanates from Antioch stilled forever.