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Hillsdale College was founded in 1844 by men and women who proclaimed themselves “grateful to God for the inestimable blessings resulting from the prevalence of civil and religious liberty and intelligent piety in the land,” and who believed that “the diffusion of sound learning is essential to the perpetuity of these blessings.”
Hillsdale was the first American college to prohibit in its charter any discrimination based on race, sex, or national origin. Associated with the anti-slavery movement from its earliest days, it attracted to its campus anti-slavery leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Edward Everett, who preceded Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg. Several of the College’s leading men were instrumental in founding the new Republican party up the road in Jackson, Michigan, in 1854. And Hillsdale sent a larger percentage of its students to fight for the Union in the Civil War than any other American college or university except West Point. Two of those Hillsdale veterans helped carry Lincoln’s casket to the slain president’s final resting place in Springfield, Illinois.
Hillsdale’s modern rise to national prominence began in the 1970s, when the federal government attempted to impose a host of regulations on the College—including racial quota requirements that violated Hillsdale’s principled policy of nondiscrimination. When the Supreme Court upheld these regulations in the 1980s on the basis that Hillsdale students received federally funded grants and loans, the College decided to refuse even this indirect form of federal aid, replacing all federal student aid with privately funded grants, loans, and scholarships.
Hillsdale’s Board of Trustees pledged first that the College would continue its long-standing policy of nondiscrimination, and second that it would not accept any encroachments on its independence. It is a pledge that has been renewed several times in subsequent years and stands to date.
Today an independent, coeducational, residential liberal arts college with a student body of some 1,400 undergraduates, the College continues to carry out its original mission. With a core curriculum that comprises about one-half of courses a student needs to graduate, Hillsdale maintains its strong fidelity to the liberal arts.
In its outreach, too, the College teaches those same ideas that advance “civil and religious liberty.” Its many programs include the Center for Constructive Alternatives, one of the largest college lecture series in America; the Hoogland Center for Teacher Excellence, which holds seminars for high school teachers of civics and history; the National Leadership Seminars; the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, in Washington, D.C.; and Imprimis, a monthly newsletter that reaches nearly three million people.
Opened in the fall of 2012, the Hillsdale College Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship offers an M.A. and a Ph.D. in politics.
For more information about Hillsdale College, please visit Hillsdale.edu.