Hillsdale College is considering several offers to build a new satellite location, possibly in California.
According to College President Larry Arnn, the college has received at least three serious offers to expand its operations to other parts of the country. Arnn said the opportunities come with significant dollar amounts attached and good motives behind them, as the college seeks to grow its outreach programs and efforts.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for the college right now,” Arnn said. “There are a lot of dangers, too, but there are a lot of opportunities.”
Since coming to the college, Arnn said he has received multiple offers every year of land for the college to use.
“For many years, we’ve thought, ‘Simply impractical,’” Arnn said. “There are several now in various locations with a substantial amount of money attached to them and good motives attached to them. One year ago I decided the world was telling us something, that we should listen and think about it. We haven’t done anything except that: We are thinking about it.”
Ideas for a new Hillsdale-affiliated location have run mostly akin to the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C. Arnn said the college has discussed various ideas for such a place, but is taking discrete and sensitive steps as it thinks about the prospects. Some examples he noted were an outreach or online education center or a center for the Barney Charter School Initiative. Such a building could hold seminars and hostel programming and attract homeschoolers, parents, and friends of the college.
“There are millions of people interested in learning from Hillsdale College,” Arnn said. “It would create another place for them to come.”
Phillip Kilgore, director of the Barney initiative, said such a facility would be helpful for holding regional training events as well as offering summer events and programs to middle and high school students.
“The satellite facility would give extra capacity for the college during the summer since so many events are held on our current campus between mid-May and mid-August,” Kilgore said.
Arnn also suggested a satellite facility holding a graduate school for a Masters of Classical Education program, which Hillsdale is interested in starting. He said that could launch somewhere else and perhaps also on campus.
“We know that there is a need for a quality master’s degree in classical education,” said Daniel Coupland, dean of faculty and professor of education. “We think that Hillsdale could do a good job of providing such a program.”
For now, the college does not seem to be looking to open a second undergraduate college campus anywhere. Arnn, however, did note that the number of students as well as prospective faculty members looking to pursue a liberal arts education has increased over the past 15 years.
“A lot has changed,” Arnn said. “We have a lot more high-quality students than we can admit. We have a lot more applications for jobs than we can hire. We increasingly find as we search that we wish we could hire more than one person.”
Arnn also emphasized that if the college does create a new location, the goal is to make it self-sustainable, so as not to divert funds from Hillsdale’s mission as a college. Two of the offers would make money off the land donated. The third is supported by donors who have a high opinion of Hillsdale, but are not contributing financially right now, he said.
“It would be surprising if it all comes together,” Arnn said. “It would be surprising, but by no means impossible, if none of it came together.”
Arnn publicly announced consideration of opening a new Hillsdale location during the Parents Weekend luncheon on March 17. At the time, he specifically mentioned one in California because the man making one of the offers was present at the time.
Consideration for a satellite location comes with good timing, as the college currently is developing plans and goals for the next five years. In that, Arnn said he is optimistic about the future and is aware the college has been fortunate in the success of some of its endeavors that were not always a guarantee.
Arnn teased that in about a year, he expects the school to launch another major fundraising effort. He said the college is laying out its steps to do that now.
“We’ve never been rich enough to ask the question: ‘What might you do?’” Arnn said. “It’s ‘What do you need to do for the excellence of the college?’”
For that reason, a new location affiliated with Hillsdale is under consideration, Arnn said.
“I don’t think we’re going to make a decision about this,” he said. “I think we’re going to discover whether it is a thing to do or not.”