On occasion people ask me where are the hidden college gems?
I have a found that the 50 Best Colleges list (www.thebestschools.org) is a pretty good source of hidden gems. The list’s primary criterion is that college is for undergraduates, not graduate students—which eliminates many of the big names, such as Harvard or Northwestern. It surveys the record of achievement among a college’s graduates to determine whether they have the skills to succeed in the real world. It also considers whether a college offers a ‘diversity of courses’ free of dogmatism, ideology or political correctness, delivers academic rigor so that students master their subjects, and watches its expenses to avoid adding an unwieldy debt load that indentures many graduates for decades to come.
Grove City College (GCC) is number 18 on this list. Located between Pittsburgh and Lake Erie, it has an amazing track record of admitting good students, instilling in them the proper attitude to approach the demands of college academics and turning these students into accomplished achievers. It accepts over three quarters of the students who apply, and yet it has a freshman retention rate of 91%, a 4-year graduation rate of 77% (the same as UNC, Chapel Hill’s rate), and a six-year rate of 83%. That’s incredible. More incredible still, however, is that 96% of its graduates, six months after graduation, have either a job or are in graduate school. The final bit polish on the gem is that Grove City College’s cost of attendance (COA) is under $25,000. For emphasis, that’s the cost of everything, room, board, tuition: under $25,000. That is the same cost as attending Cal State Fullerton, living in a dorm, and taking 7 or more units per semester.
GCC is a non-denominational Christian liberal arts college whose threefold mission is to provide an excellent education at an affordable price in a Christian environment. There is a wholesome nature to Grove City: the dorms are single sex, visitation rights are restricted, alcohol and drugs are banned and students are required to attend 16 chapel services per semester (Pepperdine, also a Christian school, requires 14). It’s a well-structured, disciplined environment with an emphasis on intellectual inquiry, hard work, and truth.
Academics at GCC are rigorous. As noted in a Princeton Review write up on GCC, students ‘serve God while working their butts off.’ All students in the schools of Engineering and Science and Arts and Letters must take a six-course humanities core based on the Great Books of Western Tradition. Professors at GCC are accessible and their emphasis is on teaching rather than research and publishing. It is recognized as a conservative college, particularly renowned for its economics department which has been led for 35 years by Professor Hans Sennholz, a student of Ludwig von Mises, a key figure in the free market Austrian school of economics. Other popular majors include engineering, business, biology, English (one of the few English departments left in the United States requiring all majors take a Shakespeare course), and political science. Education, however, is easily the largest department, and is considered one of the best programs in Pennsylvania.
95% of the students live on the neo-Gothic campus which offers 19 division III sports teams, over 30 intramural sports clubs, and more than 150 student organizations and activities. The campus, itself, is one of the safest in the country.
Don’t think that because GCC is a Christian-based institution that it is shrouded in dogmatic obeisance to some conservative screed. Its classes and campus invite all points of views to be discussed and considered. Furthermore, GCC values its freedom of expression to such a degree that it parted ways with the federal government over perceived infringements contained in the Title IX program, electing to set up its own financial aid program in response.
If you want to attend a true rarity among colleges, a unique gem, Grove City College might be it: fiercely independent, bolstered by faith.