Owing to a quirk of history, many of the nation’s liberal arts colleges are located in small towns and rural areas. Many of these schools were founded in the nineteenth century as denominational colleges, when a college education was as much about teaching religious devotion, morality and good character. The belief among their founders was that this education could not happen if the college were located in proximity to the vices and temptations of the city.
By the 1920s, the United States was a majority urban-dwelling nation. At the same time, early twentieth century philanthropies, as a condition for their support, insisted that institutions be ecumenical and open to science, rather than denominational in outlook. The Rockefeller and Carnegie organizations, especially, worked to secularize American higher education. Thus by the early twentieth century, many of these denominational schools were losing enrollment, as well as their reason-for-being. To survive, these small rural colleges were forced to reinvent themselves.Read more