Hillsdale College admin­is­trators are doing research into the pos­si­bility of a clas­sical edu­cation mas­ter’s program, but it is in the ear­liest planning stages. Nolan Ryan | Col­legian

Hillsdale College is con­sid­ering starting a clas­sical edu­cation master’s program, but the idea is still in the brain­storming stages with no fixed plan, according to Hillsdale College Provost David Whalen and Asso­ciate Pro­fessor and Chairman of Edu­cation Dan Cou­pland.

“Hillsdale doesn’t do any­thing unless it is pretty con­fident that it is going to do it well and it’s going to be an excellent program,” Cou­pland said. “So that is what we are talking about working on now. We don’t have a timeline. We hope it will be part of Hillsdale’s future.”

The only con­crete step that has been taken thus far was to see who, if anyone, would be inter­ested in a clas­sical edu­cation graduate program.  

“That has been extremely pos­itive,” Whalen said. “And by pos­itive I mean there appears to be a sizeable and enthu­si­astic group of people who would love it if Hillsdale got into this and are inter­ested in res­i­dential and dis­tance kinds of oppor­tu­nities to pursue graduate degrees while they work.”

But every­thing regarding a clas­sical school master’s program at Hillsdale thus far has remained at the the­o­retical level.

“It would be unwise to talk of it as if it were a plan. It is not a plan; it is a con­jecture,” Whalen said.

Such a master’s program would not be Hillsdale’s first involvement in clas­sical edu­cation. The school offers a minor in that field.

“Hillsdale has been training teachers for schools for as long as it’s been open. And it has pro­duced teachers that have gone into public, private schools. And we con­tinue to do that,” Cou­pland said. “Around 2007 or so we realized that many of our stu­dents were coming from schools that shared the mission of Hillsdale College. We also realized that our under­grad­uates here were grad­u­ating and going to work in those schools as well.”

Over time, as Hillsdale started the Barney Charter School Ini­tiative and began hosting the Clas­sical School Job Fair on campus every year, the college began to establish its name in the growing clas­sical edu­cation movement.

Within the clas­sical edu­cation movement, though, there is a growing need for admin­is­tration and lead­ership.

“One of the hardest things to find in the context of a clas­sical K‑12 school is to find admin­is­trators and leaders in general,” Cou­pland said. “Head­masters, assistant head­masters, and also dean of stu­dents department heads, lower school heads, those kinds of things.”

Before Hillsdale had any sort of graduate-level program, people asked how Hillsdale was going to con­tribute to the growing clas­sical edu­cation movement, said Cou­pland. The Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship has shown that Hillsdale can do graduate level edu­cation, and do it well, he added.  

Now that there is evi­dence of interest from the mar­keting analysis, the college might be able to take another step towards launching the program.

For current stu­dents in Hillsdale’s clas­sical edu­cation program, the prospect of a master’s program is exciting. Junior Zach Palmer, who is minoring in clas­sical edu­cation, said he has a strong interest in this kind of program.

“I have heard the rumors and would be very excited if it’s actually a thing,” Palmer said.

As a part of Hillsdale’s clas­sical edu­cation program, Palmer has been impressed with the classes and how Hillsdale has taken many of the ideas that the school is focused around and put them into a minor.  

“The subject material is so vast and it’s probably the most self-improving of the degrees that you could get here. The problem is that it’s only a minor,” Palmer said, noting that the clas­sical edu­cation minor allows stu­dents to “actually go into depth about how a human being actually learns some­thing.”

Right now, there are only a handful of schools, such as Uni­versity of Dallas, Eastern Uni­versity, and Houston Baptist Uni­versity, that have been devel­oping graduate-level pro­grams in clas­sical edu­cation, according to Cou­pland. As a result, current stu­dents like Palmer feels limited in options for graduate school.

Whalen explained, however, that starting any graduate program takes a lot of work and time. The school would have to define what the program would look like, and then the college would have to go to the Higher Learning Com­mission to get per­mission and accred­i­tation to offer the degree. The college would also have to find funding, schol­ar­ships, and more faculty.

For a program like clas­sical edu­cation, there would cer­tainly need to be good schol­ar­ships available for stu­dents.

“We haven’t even figured out what kinds of schol­ar­ships. All I know is that the stu­dents are going to need a lot of help,” Whalen said. “If people are coming here in the summer for course work, very often, they are young, they don’t have a lot of money. It might be very important that we help them, that there be some kind of stipend or tuition waiver, or things of that sort that we assist them in obtaining their master’s degree.”

And only after all these things are figured out would the college even be able to open a program.

“In a way we can be really spe­cific about what we don’t know,” Whalen said. “We don’t know what kind of budget would be nec­essary yet, we don’t know exactly how many addi­tional faculty, we don’t have a target number of stu­dents that you want to open for your initial cohort. We don’t know a timeline.”

Whalen said thinking about the program is the first step.

“In a sense you do all the thinking first and then when you’ve thought it all out you set it loose,” he said.