Antioch Returns

National Labor College, once known as a bastion of radical liberalism, is all but closing. But Antioch College, the left-wing college in Ohio with which it once enjoyed a partnership, is thriving. Antioch, which closed in 2008 due to financial problems and low enrollment, is back.

According to an article by Lawrence Biemiller in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Thanks to a pledge of four years’ free tuition for members of the initial four classes, Antioch received 3,200 applications for next fall’s 75 first-year spots, even though accreditation is still at least several years away. Having a future also means having money. Surprisingly, Antioch has that, too—the unexpected sale of a technology company that got its start at Antioch in the late 1940s brought a check for $35-million last year, kicking the endowment up to about $52-million.

But having a future will also require an achievable and appealing academic vision. That, in turn, will have to be tied to both a solid marketing plan and a sustainable business model, all overseen by clear-headed trustees and capable administrators. “If we do this right, I’m convinced that we’ll make it,” said Mark Roosevelt, Antioch’s president for just over a year, on the final day of the quarter.

It’s going to be hard to make it work. At least in part the problem is the college’s own history. Outsiders often associate the school with radical, impractical views and, well, mismanagement but the president thinks he can make it happen.

But the history also helped to bring the school back. According to the article it was Antioch alumni who paid the university $6-million to buy the campus and reopen it.

According to Roosevelt (former Massachusetts state legislator, past superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, one-time candidate for governor of Massachusetts, great-grandson of the 26th president of the United States) “we won’t compromise on the rigor of the academics, but it will be a campus without bells and whistles.”

Actually it might have to physically destroy some of the bells and whistles. The campus is simply too big to maintain now. According to the article “much of the campus’s space… is not used” and Antioch will probably have to raze some of the college’s buildings.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer