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Antioch’s Outgoing President Talks About the State of the College

Antioch College's Main Building
Antioch College's Main Building, which lost heating and suffered water damage after the college closed in 2008, has been stabilized with help from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation. Current College President Tom Manley says he expects the building to be renovated and reopened in the next five years.

Antioch College will kickoff its fall quarter on Monday, August 31. This will be Tom Manley’s last year as president of Antioch. He spoke with WYSO’s Jason Reynolds about the college’s plan to give students more control over their education and less student debt when they graduate.

MANLEY: The Antioch College Works program, a really pivotal piece of it is that every student that has demonstrated financial need gets a full tuition scholarship. And we’ve recently gone through budget cuts to make sure we can live by that.

REYNOLDS: That’s quite a commitment to provide those full tuition scholarships. How does Antioch do that fiscally, what are some sources of revenue?

MANLEY: Well, the biggest one—and we are the envy still of many small colleges—is the amount of money that we’re able to raise from the people that love us, our alumni, based on the kind of things we’re doing in the world and based on this idea that colleges need to provide access to students and families that ordinarily wouldn’t have the money to pay, and we want more colleges to take the step—the challenge—of giving full Pell eligibility scholarships.

REYNOLDS: Since you’ve been at the college, it's regained accreditation, it now offers completely customizable majors. Lots of good things have happened. What’s been the biggest success of your time at Antioch so far?

MANLEY: So far, we’ve really laid out a vision. Not only getting through accreditation and that final push, but what was going to happen after that. What’s the framework for being a college that can withstand all the challenges that small colleges in America now are being faced with? In that context, Antioch continues to be a place where students can exercise greater agency than any other college that I know of, and I think that we’ve continued to be a leader in areas that matter, around social justice, racial equality, and so forth.

REYNOLDS: On the flip side, what would you put on your “resume of failures?” What didn’t work? Or what won’t get done before you leave that you wish had or could get done?

MANLEY: Well, I have a year, so I won’t give up on anything. But I’m a believer in the term "resume of failures," believe it or not. And here I would say, our challenges to hit a maximum enrollment, which for us would be between 300 and 400. We haven’t done that. We’ve struggled in enrollment. So, enrollment would be the biggest disappointment.

REYNOLDS: Antioch has been downsizing--or right-sizing— lately. There’s less faculty and students than anticipated when the college reopened. WYSO is now an independent radio station. Glen Helen Nature Preserve is in the process of being handed off to a non-profit organization. Letting go of large assets is usually cause for concern, as is not meeting enrollment targets or putting expansion plans on hold. How worried should the community be about the college’s long-term fiscal health?

MANLEY: I think we always need to be mindful and watchful of thee core organizations that we have and rely on. So, I would say, I wouldn’t want people to lose sleep, but I do think that they should care and they should pay attention. I don’t think they should make assumptions that the college is faltering. In fact, I think it’s making very judicious, strategic decisions about concentrating on its core mission, which is educating undergraduates, right? Knowing how to manage a thousand plus acre nature preserve is not something that Antioch was built around. Neither was it built around managing a world class NPR affiliate station.

So, yes, I hope the community stays very much focused on Antioch and how we can evolve Yellow Springs and the College together. No, I don’t think people should be alarmed.

REYNOLDS: If somebody’s driving down the road in Yellow Springs or Dayton, and they hear your voice on the radio talking about what Antioch's up to right now, what would you like them to hear?

MANLEY: We may be sheltering in place, but we’re not marching in place.