Swarthmore College Explained

Swarthmore College
Country:United States
Campus:Suburban, 399acres
President:Alfred Bloom
Colors:Garnet and Gray
Nickname:The Garnet
Endowment:1.4 billion (June 30, 2008)[1]

Swarthmore College is a private, independent, liberal arts college in the United States with an enrollment of about 1,500 students. The college is located in the borough of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, 11 miles (17.7 km) southwest of Philadelphia.

The school was founded in 1864 by a committee of Quakers who were members of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Baltimore Yearly Meeting and New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Swarthmore dropped its religious affiliation and became officially non-sectarian in the early 20th century. The college has been coeducational since its founding.

Swarthmore is a member of the Tri-College Consortium, which allows students to take courses at both Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College. The colleges also share an integrated library system. Like the other consortium members, Swarthmore has resisted grade inflation.[2]

"Swarthmore" can be pronounced with the first "r" either vocalized or dropped due to differences in rhotic and non-rhotic accents.

Swarthmore's campus is coextensive with the Scott Arboretum.


The name "Swarthmore" has its roots in early Quaker history. In England, Swarthmoor Hall in Cumbria was the home of Thomas and Margaret Fell in 1652 when George Fox, fresh from his epiphany atop Pendle Hill in 1651, came to visit. The visitation turned into a long association as Fox persuaded Thomas and Margaret Fell and the inhabitants of the nearby village of Fenmore of Friendly, and Swarthmoor was used for the first Friends' meetings.

The school was founded in 1864 by a committee of Quakers who were members of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, New York Yearly Meeting and Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Edward Parrish was its first president.

Solomon Asch and Wolfgang Köhler were two noted psychologists who were professors at Swarthmore. Asch joined the faculty in 1947 and served until 1966, while Köhler came to Swarthmore in 1935 and served until his retirement in 1958. The Asch conformity experiments took place at Swarthmore.



In its 2009 college ranking, U.S. News & World Report ranked Swarthmore as the number-three liberal arts college, with an overall score of 97/100, behind Williams and Amherst, respectively. Since the inception of the U.S. News rankings, Amherst, Williams, and Swarthmore are the only colleges to have been ranked #1 on the liberal arts rankings list, with the three colleges often switching places with each other every year. Swarthmore has been ranked the number one liberal arts college in the country a total of six times so far (the most recent being in 2002).[3]

Some sources, including Greene's Guides,[4] have called Swarthmore one of the "Little Ivies".

Swarthmore ranks 10th in a 2004 Wall Street Journal survey of feeder schools to elite business, medical, and law schools.[5]

PC World ranked Swarthmore as the 4th most wired college in the nation in a 2006 report.[6]

In 2008, The Princeton Review gave Swarthmore a 99 (the highest possible score) on their Admissions Selectivity Rating.[7]

In a 2008 ranking by Forbes Magazine, Swarthmore was rated the #4 undergraduate institution in America (behind Princeton, CalTech, and Harvard respectively).[8]

In 2009, Swarthmore was named the #1 "Best Value" private college by The Princeton Review. Overall selection criteria included more than 30 factors in three areas: academics, costs and financial aid.[9]

Academic program

Swarthmore's Oxford tutorial-inspired Honors Program allows students to take double-credit seminars from their junior year and often write honors theses. Seminars are usually composed of four to eight students. Students in seminars will usually write at least three ten-page papers per seminar, and often one of these papers is expanded into a 20-30 page paper by the end of the seminar. At the end of their senior year, Honors students take oral and written examinations conducted by outside experts in their field. Around one student in each discipline is awarded "Highest Honors"; others are either awarded "High Honors" or "Honors"; rarely, a student is denied any Honors altogether by the outside examiner. Each department usually has a grade threshold for admittance to the Honors program.

Unusual for a liberal arts college, Swarthmore has an engineering program; at the end of four years, students are granted a B.S. in Engineering. Other notable programs include minors in peace and conflict studies, cognitive science, and interpretation theory.

Swarthmore has a total undergraduate student enrollment of 1,491 (for the 2007-2008 year) and 165 faculty members (99% with a terminal degree), for a student-faculty ratio of 8:1. Despite the small size of the college, the college offers more than 600 courses a year in over 50 courses of study.[10] Swarthmore has a reputation as a very academically-oriented college, with 90% of graduates eventually attending graduate or professional school. With the highest frequency, alumni earn graduate degrees at UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, Harvard, MIT, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale.[11]

Swarthmore is a member of the Tri-College Consortium (or TriCo) with nearby Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College, which allows students from any of the three to cross-register for courses at any of the others. The consortium as a whole is additionally affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and students are able to cross-register for courses there as well.

While many in higher education recognize Swarthmore College's relative lack of grade inflation,[12] [13] there is some controversy over how accurate that claim is. One study done by a Swarthmore professor in 1993 found "significant grade inflation." However, other professors and students strenuously dispute the findings based on their own experience—students go so far as to even make "Anywhere else it would've been an A" t-shirts.[14] Other statistics that show grade inflation over the past decades may be exaggerated by reporting practices and the fact that grades were not given in the Honors program until 1996.[15]

Since the 1970s, Swarthmore students have won 30 Rhodes Scholarships, 8 Marshall Scholarships, 151 Fulbright Scholarships, 22 Truman Scholarships, 13 Luce Scholarships, 67 Watson Fellowships, 3 Soros Fellowships, 18 Goldwater Scholarships, 84 Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowships, 13 National Endowment for the Humanities Grants for Younger Scholars, 234 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships, 35 Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, and 1 Mitchell Scholarship.[16]


In 2008, 15% of applicants were admitted to Swarthmore for the Class of 2012. 30% of the admitted students were valedictorians or salutatorians, 51% were in the top 2% of their high school class, and 89% in the top decile.[17] For the Class of 2011, the middle 50% SAT range for mathematics, critical reading, and writing were 680-760, 680-780, and 680-760, respectively.[18] The Middle 50% ACT range is 27 - 33.[7]

Tuition and finances

The total cost of tuition, student activity fees, room, and board for the 2008-2009 academic year was $47,804 (tuition alone was $36,154).[19]

100% of admitted students' demonstrated need is offered by the college. In total, about half of the student body receives financial aid, and the average financial aid award was $32,913 during the 2007-2008 year.[20] As a "need-blind" schools, Swarthmore makes admission decisions and financial aid decisions independently.

Swarthmore's endowment at the end of FY2008 was $1,412,609,000. Endowment per student was $966,631 for 2007-2008, one of the highest in the country.[10]

Operating revenue for the 2007-2008 school year was $130,536,000, over 40% of which was provided by the endowment.[10] As is the case with most elite institutions of higher education, actual costs as measured on a per-student basis far exceed revenue from tuition and fees, and so Swarthmore's endowment serves to offset ever-rising costs of education, subsidizing every student's education at Swarthmore--even those paying full tuition. For the 2008-2009 year, tuition, fees, and room & board charges ($47,804) fell well short of the actual cost of education per student, which was approximately $81,073 in 2007-2008.

Swarthmore ended a $230 million capital campaign on October 6, 2006, when President Bloom declared the project completed, three months ahead of schedule. The campaign, christened the "Meaning of Swarthmore," had been underway officially since the fall of 2001. 87% of the college's alumni participated in the effort.

Loan-free movement

At the end of 2007, the Swarthmore Board of Managers approved the decision for the college to eliminate student loans from all financial aid packages. Instead, additional aid scholarships will be granted.[21]


Swarthmore is located 11 miles southwest of the city of Philadelphia. The campus consists of 399acres, based on a north-south axis anchored by Parrish Hall, which houses numerous administrative offices and student lounges, as well as two floors of student housing. The campus radio station WSRN-FM broadcasts from the top.

From the SEPTA Swarthmore commuter train station and the ville of Swarthmore to the south, the oak-lined Magill Walk leads north up a hill to Parrish. The campus is also coterminous with the Scott Arboretum, cited by some as a main staple of the campus's renowned beauty.[22]

The majority of the buildings housing classrooms and department offices are located to the north of Parrish, as is Woolman dormitory. McCabe Library is to the east of Parrish, as are the dorms of Willets, Mertz, Worth, Alice Paul, and David Kemp Hall. To the west are the dorms of Wharton, Dana, and Hallowell, along with the Scott Amphitheater. The Crum Woods generally extend westward from the campus, toward the Crum Creek. South of Parrish are Sharples dining hall, the two non-residential fraternities (Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon), and various other buildings. Palmer, Pittenger, and Roberts dormitories are south of the railroad station, as are the athletic facilities, while Mary Lyon dorm is off-campus to the southwest.[23]

The College has three main libraries (McCabe Library, the Cornell Library of Science and Engineering, and the Underhill Music and Dance Library) and seven other specialized collections.[24] In total, the libraries hold over 800,000 print volumes as well as an expanding digital library of over 10,000 online journal subscriptions, reference materials, e-books, and other scholarly databases.[10]

Recently, Swarthmore has added wireless access in all of the campus residence halls. The wireless network is also available in all administrative and academic buildings, and in many of the campus's outdoor spaces.[25]

Clubs and organizations

There are more than 100 chartered clubs and organizations at Swarthmore, in addition to many other unchartered groups. Clubs and organizations are a fundamental part of the College, and the center of many students' energies and social life. This extracurricular involvement contributes to the frequent characterization of Swarthmore students as both motivated and overworked.

Academic clubs

The Amos J. Peaslee Debate Society, named after a former United States Ambassador to Australia, is one of the only independently endowed organizations on campus. Swarthmore's College Bowl team was considered one of the best in the country during the late 1990s and early 2000s - it won the 1998 Division I Undergraduate NAQT tournament.

College Democrats

The Swarthmore College Democrats are a student-run political organization on campus. They sometimes work in concert with the Students for a Democratic Society, as well as sponsoring their own events. The Democrats also operate the blog Garnet Donkey.

Greek life

Two Greek organizations exist on the campus in the form of the fraternities Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi. Notably lacking are sororities, which were abandoned in the 1930s following student outrage about discrimination within the sorority system.[26] Interest in resurrecting sorority life has recently returned with an all-female student group known as LaSS (The Ladies Soiree Society) organizing campus wide charity events and social functions.[27]


Swarthmore offers the full panoply of sporting teams with a total of 22 Division III Varsity Intercollegiate Sports Teams. 40 percent of Swarthmore students play intercollegiate or club sports.[28]

Varsity teams include badminton, baseball, basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field and volleyball. Notably lacking among these teams is football, which was controversially eliminated in 2000, along with wrestling and initially badminton. The Board of Managers offered a number of reasons for eliminating football, including lack of athletes on campus and difficulty of recruiting,[29] [30] Swarthmore also offers a number of club sport options, including rugby, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, fencing, and squash.


The official weekly newspaper of Swarthmore College is The Phoenix. It is published every Thursday, except during final week and vacation time. Some staff positions are paid a token amount. The newspaper was founded in 1881, with online editions beginning in 1995. Its current tabloid format is more similar to a newsmagazine than a newspaper, with a color front cover. Two thousand copies, free of charge, are distributed across the college campus and to the borough of Swarthmore. The newspaper is printed at the Delaware County Daily and Sunday Times in Primos, Pennsylvania. Its online website is hosted by the Swarthmore College Computer Society, with bandwidth-search engine capability provided by the Swarthmore College Information Technology Services. In 2000, The Phoenix was an Online Pacemaker for the Associated Collegiate Press award.

The Daily Gazette is another student newspaper; unlike The Phoenix, it is e-mailed daily to 2,500 people; like "The Phoenix," its content is independent of both the administration and student government. Its coverage includes news, arts, and daily sports reporting. The first issues were distributed through e-mail during the fall semester of 1996, with an online edition soon following. Like The Phoenix, it is primarily funded through the Student Activity Fee, with additional income from advertising.

There are a number of magazines at Swarthmore, most of which are published biannually at the end of each semester. One is Spike, Swarthmore's humor magazine. The others are literary magazines, including Small Craft Warnings, which publishes poetry, fiction and artwork; Scarlet Letters, which publishes women's literature; Enie, for Spanish literature; OURstory, for literature relating to diversity issues; Bug-Eyed Magazine, a very limited-run science fiction/fantasy magazine published by Psi Phi, formerly known as SWIL; Remappings (formerly "CelebrASIAN"), published by the Swarthmore Asian Organization; Alchemy, a collection of academic writings published by the Swarthmore Writing Associates; Mjumbe, published by the Swarthmore African-American Student Society; and a magazine for French literature. An erotica magazine, ! (pronounced "bang") was briefly published in 2005 in homage to an earlier publication, Untouchables. Most of the literary magazines print approximately 500 copies, with around 100 pages.


WSRN 91.5 FM is the college radio station. It has a mix of indie, rock, hip-hop, folk, world, jazz, and classical music, as well as a number of radio talk shows. At one time, WSRN had a significant news department, and covered events such as the "Crisis of '69",[31] extensively. Many archived recordings of musical and spoken word performances exist, such as the once-annual Swarthmore Folk Festival.[32] Today WSRN focuses virtually exclusively on entertainment, though it has covered significant news developments such as the athletic cuts in 2000[33] and the effects of 11 September 2001 on campus. War News Radio and The Darfur Radio Project do broadcast news on WSRN, however.

Swarthmore Fire and Protective Association

Swarthmore College students are eligible to participate in the local emergency department, the Swarthmore Fire and Protective Association. They are trained as firefighters and as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and are qualified on both the state and national level. The fire department responds to over 200 fire calls and almost 800 EMS calls a year.

Activism and community service

Swarthmore is known as a center of social and political activism. The Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, endowed by philanthropist and Swarthmore alumnus Eugene M. Lang '38 in 2002, prepares students for leadership in civic engagement, public service, advocacy and social action. Swarthmore students are active in the local community, performing outreach programs in nearby Chester. The college has recently received significant coverage due to two student groups founded in 2004, the Genocide Intervention Network (now an independent non-profit organization) and War News Radio. Swarthmore's political landscape is generally considered fairly left-wing, though student activism is far less than it was in the heyday of the protest culture of the 1960s. Recent high-profile campaigns included a living wage organization (Swarthmore Living Wage & Democracy Campaign); actions surrounding the electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold Election Systems (now Premier Election Solutions) by campus groups Students for Free Culture and Why War?; and a "Kick Coke" campaign aimed at replacing soda machines offering Coca-Cola with alternative products. The Kick-Coke campaign had a victory in November 2006 when the College agreed to cut its contract with Coca-Cola.

Swarthmore College Computer Society

Swarthmore College Computer Society (SCCS) is a student-run organization independent of the official ITS department of the college[34] . In addition to operating a set of servers that provide e-mail accounts, Unix shell login accounts, server storage space, and webspace to students, professors, alumni, and other student-run organizations, the SCCS hosts over 100 mailing lists used by various student groups, and over 130 organizational websites, including the website of the student newspaper, The Phoenix. The SCCS also provides a number of spaces that are open to members of the student body, as well as to faculty and staff:

The computer lab and Video Pit together comprise the SCCS Media Lounge, located in Clothier basement beneath Essie Mae's snack bar. The SCCS staff consists of a group of students selected by existing staff and approved by members of a student body-elected policy board.


In September 2003, the SCCS servers survived a Slashdotting while hosting a copy of the Diebold memos on behalf of the student group Free Culture Swarthmore, then known as the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons. SCCS staff promptly complied with the relevant DMCA takedown request received by the college's ITS department.[35] .

The SCCS was noted in PC Magazine's article "Top 20 Wired Colleges" as one of the reasons for ranking Swarthmore #4 on that list.[36] During the 2004-2005 school year, the SCCS Media Lounge served as the early home of War News Radio, a weekly webcast run by Swarthmore students and providing news about the Iraq war, providing resources, space, and technical support for the project in its infancy.

Two SCCS papers have been accepted for publication at the USENIX Large Installation System Administration (LISA) Conference, one of which was awarded Best Paper.[37] [38] [39]


See main article: List of Swarthmore College people. Swarthmore's alumni include five Nobel Prize winners (second highest number of Nobel Prize winners per graduate in the U.S.), including the 2006 Physics laureate John C. Mather (1968), the 2004 Economics laureate Edward Prescott (1962) and the 1972 Chemistry laureate Christian B. Anfinsen (1937). Swarthmore also has 16 MacArthur Foundation fellows and hundreds of prominent figures in law, art, science, business, politics, and other fields.

Other prominent alumni include Seventh Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook (1970), Congressman Christopher Van Hollen (1983), Senator Carl Levin of Michigan (1956), musical composer and satirist Peter Schickele (1957), astronomer Sandra M. Faber (1966), The Corrections author Jonathan Franzen (1981), Caltech president and Nobel laureate David Baltimore (1960), Georgetown University Law Center Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff (1974), philosopher David Kellogg Lewis (1962), and Justin Hall (1998), widely considered to be the first blogger. Wall Street magnate and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. founder Jerome Kohlberg, Jr. (1946) founded the Philip Evans Scholarship Foundation in 1986 at Swarthmore. Suffragist and National Women's Party founder Alice Paul graduated in 1905. Eugene Lang (1938), founder of the I Have a Dream Foundation, has endowed many buildings and programs on campus, including, as noted above, the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.

In addition, the Philadelphia-based hip-hop group Jedi Mind Tricks is known to be associated with the college; promotional photos feature the Scott Amphitheater and WSRN radio station[40] [41], and Stoupe allegedly worked at the College and had a show on WSRN.[42] [43]

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

An internationally important archive of papers and books concerning the work of pacifist organizations and individuals, the Peace Collection forms part of the Swarthmore College Library. Its mission is to gather, preserve, and make accessible material that documents non-governmental efforts for nonviolent social change, disarmament, and conflict resolution between peoples and nations.http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/

Points of interest

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. Web site: 2008 NACUBO Endowment Study. National Association of College and University Business Officers. PDF. February 6, 2009.
  2. http://www.law.ucla.edu/sander/Systemic/supp/NatGrd.pdf Supplemental Information on the “National Grade”
  3. http://chronicle.com/stats/usnews/index.php?category=Liberal+Arts+Colleges
  4. Greene, Howard and Matthew Greene (2000) Greenes' Guides to Educational Planning: The Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-095362-4, excerpt at HarperCollins.com
  5. http://www.wsjclassroom.com/pdfs/wsj_college_092503.pdf
  6. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2073477,00.asp
  7. http://www.theprincetonreview.com/schools/college/CollegeAdmissions.aspx?iid=1024057
  8. http://www.forbes.com/lists/2008/94/opinions_college08_Americas-Best-Colleges_Rank.html
  9. http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/best-value-colleges.htm
  10. http://www.swarthmore.edu/quickfacts.xml
  11. http://www.swarthmore.edu/admissions/unspun/index.php
  12. http://thedartmouth.com/2002/02/27/news/reed/
  13. http://www.swarthmore.edu/Admin/publications/bulletin/archive/98/dec98/collection.html
  14. http://www.swarthmorephoenix.com/2004/03/25/news/grade-inflation-not-a-concern-for-professors
  15. http://www.swarthmore.edu/Admin/publications/bulletin/archive/99/june99/letters.html
  16. http://www.swarthmore.edu/admissions/unspun/index.php
  17. http://www.swarthmore.edu/x17822.xml
  18. http://members.ucan-network.org/swarthmore
  19. http://www.swarthmore.edu/quickfacts.xml
  20. http://www.swarthmore.edu/x17668.xml
  21. http://www.swarthmore.edu/x16525.xml
  22. http://www.greaterphiladelphiagardens.org/press.asp?PressReleaseID=33
  23. http://www.swarthmore.edu/visitordash/campus_map.pdf Campus Map
  24. http://www.swarthmore.edu/x4593.xml
  25. http://www.swarthmore.edu/wireless.xml
  26. http://www.swarthmore.edu/news/history/1933.html
  27. http://phoenix.swarthmore.edu/2007-04-19/living/17239
  28. http://www.swarthmore.edu/admissions/unspun/index.php
  29. http://phoenix.swarthmore.edu/2003-12-04/news/13551 Athlete recruiting difficulty
  30. http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/org/daily/specials/sportscut/index.html Athlete recruiting difficulty
  31. http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/org/phoenix/2002/2002-01-24/news/11640.html Crisis of '69
  32. http://www.swarthmore.edu/bulletin/archive/97/mar97/folkfestivals.html Swarthmore Folk Festival
  33. http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/org/phoenix/2000/2000-11-30/ Cuts to athletic programs
  34. http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/
  35. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3341683/ Swarthmore College's response to the DMCA takedown request
  36. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2073408,00.asp Top 20 Wired Colleges
  37. http://www.usenix.org/events/lisa07/ 21st Large Installation System Administration (LISA) Conference, Dallas, November 11-16, 2007
  38. http://www.usenix.org/events/lisa02/tech/stepleton.html Work-Augmented Laziness with the Los Task Request System
  39. http://www.usenix.org/events/lisa06/tech/crosta.html Fighting Institutional Memory Loss: The Trackle Integrated Issue and Solution Tracking System
  40. http://www.last.fm/music/Jedi+Mind+Tricks/+images/2384864 Jedi Mind Tricks in Scott Amphitheater
  41. http://www.last.fm/music/Jedi+Mind+Tricks/+images/24312 Jedi Mind Tricks in WSRN radio station
  42. http://stereogum.com/archives/jedi-mind-tricks-sample-sufjan-stevens_003153.html#comment-180742
  43. http://stereogum.com/archives/jedi-mind-tricks-sample-sufjan-stevens_003153.html#comment-182678