It’s been a long, hard struggle to

protect Hillsdale’s independence.

But through it all, we’re still...

Standing Firm


Hillsdale College:

Independence in Thought,

Independence in Action

Hillsdale has stood firm for independence since its founding in 1844.  The College has fought hard to remain free of interference — from government and other sources of political pressure — by taking the financially risky course of the federal funds on which most colleges and universities have come to depend and by working to establish a broad base of financial support.

Such a stand is rare among educators who speak loudly of “academic freedom,” then compete eagerly for government subsidies.

But in an era when educational operating costs are so high and pursuit of the public dollar is the norm for most academic institutions — both public and private — why has Hillsdale maintained such a firm (some would say stubborn) position?

Because only through financial independence is true academic freedom possible.  And Hillsdale’s history illustrates this simple, though widely ignored, truth.

Why Hillsdale Refuses to

Accept Federal Funds

Hillsdale was established as a liberal arts college dedicated to some ideas that were controversial in pre-Civil War America.  One of those ideas was that black people, who were still considered property in a large part of the country, and women, whose rights were circumscribed in their own way, should equal access to education.

This idea was written into the school’s charter.  And it is ironic that over a century later, Hillsdale would come into conflict with a bureaucracy whose mission, supposedly, is protecting the rights of women and minorities.

That happened in the mid-1970s, when the federal government demanded that colleges and universities report statistics on the ethnic and gender makeup of faculty, staff and students.

We refused.  In fact, Hillsdale was the first college in the country to declare publicly that it would not accept federal supervision of its policies and procedures.

Since the College received no federal funds, we reasoned, there was no obligation to report anything to a government that — over a century later — was finally catching up with Hillsdale’s views on educational equality.

The bureaucrats countered that since some Hillsdale students had federal student loans and scholarships, the College was an “indirect recipient” of government funds and, therefore, obligated to comply with federal rules.

When the Supreme Court upheld the government’s position, Hillsdale took the unprecedented step of declining to accept student money derived from federal loans and scholarships, reaffirming our long-held independent stance.

Hillsdale maintains an extensive program of student loans and scholarships with endowments and special funding provided by individual donorsa, companies and foundations to replace the federal student aid money we refuse.

How Hillsdale Differs from

Other Colleges Today

From its beginnings, Hillsdale has been committed to educating young people in our Judeo-Christian heritage and the traditions of American democracy, responsible freedom, and individual initiative.  The College considers itself a custodian of the learning and values of Western civilization.  We offer a classical education built around a comprehensive core curriculum in the best tradition of the liberal arts, free of the academic trendiness and “politically correct” multiculturalism that often amounts to little more than propaganda.

This comprehensive, traditional approach provides an excellent foundation for higher-level training in a wide variety of fields.  And it offers the broadest possible preparation for an economic environment that is fiercely competitive right up to a global scale.

The College boasts of numerous graduates who have gone on to distinction in science, business, the arts, religion, academia, and public service.  And Hillsdale students are sought after eagerly by many graduate schools and a host of corporate recruiters who visit our campus every year.

What Hillsdale’s Independence

Means for the Nation

In an age when disillusionment is a dominant theme, Hillsdale offers a remarkable illustration of the appeal of traditional principles courageously defended.  The College has stood for independence, risking much to maintain it.

And that principled stands has tapped a great well of respect in the American people, bringing forth the support that makes it possible for Hillsdale to remain independent.  It is a lesson for the country and a sharp rebuke to those who insist that education exists only through the benevolence of government.

Hillsdale College demonstrates clearly the undeniable and inspiring power of independence in thought, independence in action.

• • •

Student Recruiting

and Fund Raising

Early 1990s

Extract from a brochure explaining why Hillsdale College refuses federal funding, directed at prospective students and potential donors

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