The Most Interesting College of the Day! – Deep Springs College – May 27

“Deep Springs College is one of the most unique, remote, and smallest in the US. Began in 1917, the college 40 miles from Bishop, California on an isolated cattle ranch in Deep Springs Valley. It is also quite isolated – Deep Springs used to have a direct telephone line  until its instability resulted in a wireless radio link. Even today, because the radio signal is relayed using a repeater station high in the White Mountains, and because the first relay out of Deep Springs does not have a line of sight, the system is subject to outages caused by high winds and inclement weather.

Between 12-15 students are admitted each year. Each receives a full scholarship; the college covers the costs of tuition, room, and board for every student offered admission. In exchange, Deep Springs students are expected to dedicate themselves to lives of service to humanity. Alumni have gone on to exemplify this ideal in a wide variety of fields, including politics, science, journalism, academics, agriculture, medicine, law, business, and design.

The three pillars, which comprise students’ formal responsibilities in their two years at the college, together allow each student to take real responsibility for and ownership of the community. The Student Body is responsible for many aspects of running the college, admitting students, hiring faculty, and reviewing student and faculty performance. Each student also labors for at least twenty hours each week. Labor positions include working on the farm and ranch, as well as other daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and maintaining facilities and vehicles.

Classes are small—the average is eight students. With such small classes, thorough preparation and class participation are essential and expected. There are no majors. Most students take two to three classes per semester, and many classes are discussion-based.

The Curriculum Committee (staffed and chaired by students) selects the college’s professors, and the Student Body determines each semester’s curriculum by choosing courses from a variety of proposals submitted by each professor.

After completing Deep Springs’ two-year program, most students transfer to four-year institutions to finish their degree by going to world-class universities including Yale, Stanford, Brown, and Chicago.

In 20 hours of work per week, students do everything from milking our two dairy cows, to irrigating a 155-acre alfalfa farm, to cooking meals and cleaning the community’s dishes 3 times a day. While students learn how to be useful on a farm, most do not go on to work in agriculture. The labor program allows students to contemplate their role in a community, to practice working hard, and to foster a sense of ownership and responsibility.”

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