Posted by: erinserb | September 16, 2010

Death of a college

Perhaps I would have have passed up the Wall Street Journal article/obituary regarding Dana College, but it struck me as something to be concerned about even though I have not reached the hallowed halls of academic librarianship – yet!

Dana College in Blair, NE is/was (I hate to qualify the school in the past tense) a “prairie college”, much like my first alma mater Columbia College nee Chrstian Female College in Columbia, MO. 

As for Dana College, it seems to have been built in the immigrant pioneer spirit of  and by Danish-Americans in the late 19th century.  In fact, the school housed the Danish-American museum.

Dana unfortunately symbolizes a trend in small town liberal arts colleges – a shrinking enrollment and higher operating costs.  The school attempted to go “corporate”, striving to be a for-profit school.   This plan was unceremoniously shot down by the Higher Learning Commission.  In this case, the North Central accrediting body.  The last gasping plan was for the college to provide and extend its student educational base to the non-traditional student, offering on-line and off-campus programs and extending its reach for study-abroad and graduate programs.  However, the HLC deemed the plan was not in keeping with the spirit of the liberal-arts tradition which Dana had provided for over 100 years –  hence Dana was a product of its own demise.

Dana, to me, struck me as being special.  It was a Lutheran college (I am Lutheran), it offered  quality liberal-arts programs, and carried the spirit of immigrants who wanted to build a better life in this country.

Their library seems to have been parceled out to other colleges, particularly other Lutheran colleges in the upper Midwest.  There will also be the challenge to archivists and librarians in shepherding and preserving the precious contents of the co-located museum.

When we lose a college like Dana, we lose another strength of our country; that being the tradition of the liberal-arts college where students are not “mass-produced”, but are nurtured in body, mind and spirit.

We all lose a little bit of the American Dream with this loss!


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