More than 40 colleges have been called Colleges That Change Lives since 1996. The late Loren Pope, former education editor for the New York Times, wrote the first three editions of a book by this name, and the book became a popular guide among parents, school counselors and college admissions advisors. After Pope passed away in 2008, journalist Hillary Masell Oswald continued his work. She wrote the latest edition of the book that was released in 2013.
In the earlier editions of the Colleges That Change Lives books, Pope believed that the ideal size for a college was approximately 2,000 students, and that a liberal arts education offered the best preparation for life after college. But some of the schools that are profiled in the current edition have a larger undergraduate student body. Evergreen State College, one only two public Colleges That Change Lives, has over 3,600 undergraduates.
From experience, my perceptions of a College That Change Lives are that:
- Admissions do not necessarily need to be selective
- Their academic opportunities should be quite similar, even equal or superior, to those offered by more selective liberal arts colleges.
- The college should do well at retaining the students that it attracts to campus and guide them successfully towards their degrees.
- These schools are smaller, and therefore more personal, than a state university; they should also graduate their students at a higher rate than a state university.
- The more that a college can do to lower costs for students and their families, the more diverse its student body can be.
The ten Colleges That Change Lives that I have visited do well on these three counts. But other colleges are equally deserving. If I was to recommend other schools to be Colleges That Change Lives, following Pope’s original guidelines, I would consider schools that:
- Enroll no more than 2,500 undergraduates
- Accept approximately half of all applicants
- Graduate at least 65 percent of their freshmen within four years
- Offer scholarship programs to attempt to lower costs
Given the above, these schools should be considered for inclusion among the Colleges That Change Lives:
- Elizabethtown College (PA)
- Grove City College (PA)
- Hanover College (IN)
- Lake Forest College (IL)
- Luther College (IA)
- Muhlenberg College (PA)
- St. Anselm College (NH)
- St. Mary’s College of Maryland
- St. Michael’s College (VT)
- Stonehill College (MA)
- Susquehanna University (PA)
- Transylvania University (KY)
- Washington College (MD)
- Wheaton College (MA)
Had I extended this list to larger liberal arts colleges, I would have added Siena College (NY), which has just over 3,000 undergraduates.
If there was interest in adding larger public liberal arts colleges to the Colleges That Change Lives that are closer in size to Evergreen State, but have better freshman retention and graduation rates, my recommendations would include:
- Christopher Newport University (VA)
- University of Mary Washington (VA)
I am quite sure that I missed several schools, and welcome your suggestions.
Need help in finding some “hidden gems,” such as these schools? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.