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Published: Saturday, 5/5/2007

Academia's 'hidden treasure'

A FEW weeks ago, I went to a college campus to hear a controversial speaker on a hot-button topic in a lecture hall packed with students. The speaker (my friend, military analyst Ralph Peters) had no security and needed none. No attempt was made to disrupt his remarks. The questions the students asked were polite, respectful, and intelligent, indicating both a familiarity with the topic and a desire to learn more about it.

All too common on campuses these days is the treatment FBI Director Robert Mueller received two weeks ago when he tried to give a speech at Harvard. Of course, Mr. Mueller is a controversial high-ranking U.S. official and therefore more of a target for protest, but still

"Mueller, who was set to speak before a full crowd managed by tight security detail, had just begun his prepared remarks when the first protester interrupted with screams," reported the Harvard Crimson.

Grove City College is a small school (2,450 in the student body) located in a bucolic community about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. It is loosely affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.

There are more than three reasons why you should consider sending your son or daughter to Grove City, but these are the most important:

Your child will be safe. College should be safe but is becoming less so. In 2005, the most recent year for which the Department of Education has compiled data, there were 11 murders, 2,857 aggravated assaults, and 2,697 "forcible sex offenses" at American colleges and universities.

At the University of Pittsburgh that year, there were five rapes, two aggravated assaults, and 45 burglaries. At Penn State's University Park campus, there were nine rapes, six aggravated assaults, and 45 burglaries. At the University of Pennsylvania, there were three rapes, five aggravated assaults, and 33 burglaries.

There were five burglaries at Grove City in 2005, which amounts to roughly the same rate per student as at the far larger schools. But the last rape there was in 1993. There is no record of a murder or an aggravated assault ever having taken place on campus.

Of course, Pitt and Penn are located in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where the crime rate is much higher than it is in rural Pennsylvania. But at Dartmouth (4,100 undergraduates) in bucolic Hanover, N.H., there were 14 rapes and 34 burglaries in 2005. Clearly, there is a dynamic at Grove City that isn't present at many schools.

Your child will receive a first rate education. In the U.S. News & World Report rankings for 2007, Grove City ranked seventh (of 34) in its category (Comprehensive Colleges, North).

The U.S. News rankings are based on statistical data such as the SAT/ACT scores of entering freshmen. (The average SAT score for last year's freshman class at Grove City was 1,279, slightly higher than for Pitt or Penn State, much higher than the national average of 1,021.)

What impresses me about Grove City is that students there actually learn facts, learn them in context, and practice critical thinking. No political correctness. At Grove City, the faculty thinks it is more important for students to learn how to think than to be told what to think.

This is rare at public schools. My daughter attended the University of Colorado. She took a geography course her freshman year. In that course she and her classmates learned that white people are responsible for every bad thing that's ever happened in Rwanda. But at the end of the course, many still couldn't find Rwanda on a map. And this was a geography course.

Grove City ranked first, for the fifth year in a row, in the "best value" category in U.S. News' college rankings. According to the Princeton Review, the average cost to attend a public college or university for four years is $48,500. For private schools, it's $116,000. At the private Grove City, full-time students this school year are paying $16,728 for tuition, room and board, which would amount to $67,000 over four years.

The event that brought me to Grove City, the annual seminar of its Center for Vision and Values, is another reason for loving the college. The center is run by Dr. Paul Kengor, a rising young star in academia who has written a well received biography of President Reagan.

This year's seminar was on the "De-Christianization of Europe." It featured scholars from Britain, France, and Belgium as well as the United States. There just aren't enough places in America anymore where you can hear an amicable discussion of an important topic by genuine experts with widely differing points of view.

In a national survey of high school guidance counselors, Kaplan Publishing described Grove City College as a "hidden treasure." It's a treasure which should be hidden no longer.



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