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“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

Matthew 7:7


Many small colleges are struggling these days. Burdened with high facility costs and a nation-wide decline in student applications. Small colleges often compete with larger universities that have large endowments and well-staffed research facilities. Most small colleges have small endowments and continuously have to fight to fund their operations every year.

Recently, I had the privilege to speak at Thiel College in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania. With any speaking engagement it is always good to take a tour before you speak to pick up on the nuances that exist.

As I was guided on my tour by a graduating senior named Terry, I slowly drifted back to my own college experience of going to a small college in Boston.

The class sizes were small and intimate. Many times the students knew their professor and could even text them and get an answer back. The facilities were modern and up to date. Each of the professors were engaging and open to conversation. Similar to my experience many decades ago. An intimate environment where I knew all the faculty and they knew me.

I started to notice positive and unusual things. The alumni had provide over thirty million dollars for capital expansion over the last few years. For a school of little over eight hundred students, this is an amazing number, over forty thousand dollars spent for each student! And it showed in the labs, the library and in the student facilities.

This college was different. Many of the academic departments had a one hundred percent placement rate for graduating seniors. In fact, in total the placement rate was well into the ninety percent range. They have a very involved placement office and know every student and their direction.

Student life is well thought out, with dozens of activities. The dining hall had every option and rivals that of much larger colleges. It was a campus with a lot of smiles.

But Thiel is very different, not caught up in political dogma, it knows its goal; to train and educate young people to not only survive, but to thrive.

Thiel has classes like business ethics and even has a Senior seminar to introduce students to the real world of earning a living. Both focus on the practical and not the theoretical. Training students for life outside the protected walls of college. The students get everyday advise and input from those who work at places where the students want to go.

Alumni are invited to give input and help. They are not just asked to give money, but to share their lives. The alumni are not looked on as a potential donors, but as a working part of university life. In turn they give, not because they are asked, but because they can participate.

The faculty know their students and what makes them tick. They educate to the students’ capacity and needs. Many have worked outside college and now enjoy making younger versions successful. The faculty teaches not to write research, but to change lives.

And it shows up in the faces of all you meet, a symbiotic relationship between, faculty to students to alumni. The way all life should be, everyone working together.

The college receives because they ask. Bold in their goals for the education of students they ask. They also receive, not just because they ask. But because they also give and believe in their mission to produce wonderfully educated results.

Many colleges try earnestly to achieve these results, but fall short. They do invite alumni to give, but fail to see the human value of alumni. They do talk about education, but quickly turn to research and other places of fame. Some are caught up in the natural tension between administration and faculty. Never really achieving peace through compromise. These schools ask, but often fall short because they forget there is a person behind their asking.

Sure we need great colleges as research and learning centers. It builds up our country. These are the places that start cancer research and social thought. These are the places of new theories and ideas that will be used in the future. Our country needs them.

We also need small colleges to thrive. To produce the practical and skilled who will go on to become our nation’s back bone. These students will be our future and replace the millions who work today. These students want a life that is better or at least equal to their parents. They need the intimacy of a small college that cares about educating and training.

Thiel does this by checking off every box. They care about their students, not just in words, with deeds. They care about their alumni, not just for their money, but their input. They care about their faculty, not just hiring them, but listening to them.

Thiel is a model every college could learn from. Not for their theories or ideas, but for their practical solutions. Thiel asks and receives, because they give.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Baim Hanif

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.

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