Magazine article Insight on the News

Grove City: A Little College That Could

Magazine article Insight on the News

Grove City: A Little College That Could

Article excerpt

Grove City College has been delivering a top liberal-arts education in a Christian environment at relatively low cost for 125 years -- without receiving any government funding.

In March 1876, a flier circulated in Northwestern Pennsylvania described a soon-to-be-established school and advertised for students. It modestly announced that the spring term of a "Select School at Pine Grove, Pa." would commence on April 11.

Tuition for what soon would be known as Grove City College was to run between $4 and $6.50 for a 12-week session, the flier declared.

Twenty-six local students -- men as well as women, as Grove City was coeducational from its start -- signed up for classes. Today, Grove City College has 2,300 students from 49 states and several foreign countries whose total expenses amount to less than $13,000 per student -- a great deal more than 125 years ago, but nonetheless very inexpensive for a private college in 2001. From a small school known only in its region, Grove City now has a national reputation for independence (the school refuses all federal aid, including student loans; it also does not bestow tenure on faculty, rare among American institutions of higher learning).

But it is a school that also is well-known for the three elements that have been central to Grove City's mission since its very beginning: to provide an excellent education, in a Christian environment, while keeping down costs. In Freedom's College: The History of Grove City College (Regnery, 338 pp, $27.95, illustrated), Lee Edwards -- an adjunct professor of political science at the Catholic University of America, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and senior editor of Insight's sister monthly, The World and I -- tells with skill the impressive story of how Grove City got from its modest beginning to the role it plays in American education today. Partly, it's the story of strong personalities.

Grove City's first president, Isaac Conrad Ketler, was a "devout Presbyterian with a passion for education" and a strong ambition to become an influential teacher and educator. His significance to the college was enormous. Ketler served as president until 1913 -- 37 years altogether, during a very formative period for the school. But equally significant for Grove City's future was the fact that Joseph Newton Pew, founder of the Pew dynasty of financiers and philanthropists, was one of Ketler's grade-school teachers and a lifelong mentor and friend of the educator. …

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