“I’ve been at Hillsdale for three weeks, and life here is blissfully normal”
How fascinating. One of the only openly conservative schools in the country is defying the odds. How could this be?
While other schools struggle, Hillsdale College enrollment has surged during COVID-19. Here’s why
The first fall semester of the COVID-19 pandemic saw mixed enrollment results for Michigan liberal arts colleges.
Overall, Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities schools saw a 4% decline from fall 2019 to 2020, according to vice president Colby Cesaro. At Hillsdale College, first-year enrollment very slightly decreased by less than 1% during that timespan, according to data provided by the college.
It was typical of the last decade, which has been up-and-down for the traditionally white, Christian college in rural Hillsdale County. First year enrollment never went above 391 students and bottomed out at 361 in 2020.
But that trend changed in a big way the next year, as enrollment surged by 16% in fall 2021 at the school of 1,500. That was buoyed by a 53% increase in applications during the same timeframe.
Students cite two reasons for their interest in Hillsdale College — less stringent COVID-19 policies and a classical education curriculum that sets the college apart from its peers.
Hillsdale College has a COVID-19 vaccination policy based on personal choice. Mask-wearing in classes is at the discretion of professors and has been recommended rather than required. The college ended the fall 2020 semester virtually, but has returned to in-person teaching ever since.
Support for these policies was reinforced in a January blog post by sophomore Jane Kitchen on former New York Times op-ed editor Bari Weiss’ platform Common Sense. She detailed her transfer to Hillsdale from the Pennsylvania-based all women’s Bryn Mawr College.
“I’ve been at Hillsdale for three weeks, and life here is blissfully normal,” Kitchen wrote. “I have sorority sisters. We get together and study and play board games. The student union and dining hall are packed. No one asks anyone else’s vaccine status. There are no mask mandates, and no mandatory COVID testing. You’ll see an occasional student in a mask but no one thinks anything of it.”
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