Solvency has haunted Antioch College, a liberal arts school in Yellow Springs Ohio with a storied history, which shuttered its doors in 2008. The college reopened last year with 35 students, and is looking for new ways to draw students and maintain financial stability:
When the first students arrived on campus last fall, they found themselves with an unprecedented amount of influence over what Antioch would be. Administrators had set up a schedule that included intensive study of one subject over a few weeks; what that meant in reality was that students had mid-term exams about two weeks after starting a course. They complained, and in a major change that affected class sequences and faculty, the school dropped the schedule in favor of a more traditional one. Another adjustment: The school had planned to offer Portuguese to help with co-op positions in Brazil, but students persuaded administrators to replace it with Japanese. Students also sit in on faculty interviews and help write visitors’ policies, which is not a common practice at most colleges.
That kind of influence is possible because Antioch, despite its rich history, is essentially a start-up, with all the opportunities and challenges that go along with a new venture. Money is a constant concern; the school’s endowment, which helps pay for current students’ tuition, is $44.5 million, far smaller than most liberal arts institutions, which means it can’t afford to spend the $75,000 or more per student that high-end liberal-arts colleges do. That’s led Antioch officials to focus on a narrow mission and do it well, acknowledging what they are not and what they cannot do.