Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College (/ˈswɔːrθmɔːr/, locally [swɑθ-]) is a private liberal arts college in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.[6] Founded in 1864, with its first classes being held in 1869, Swarthmore was one of the earliest coeducational colleges in the United States.[7] It was established to be a college "...under the care of Friends, at which an education may be obtained equal to that of the best institutions of learning in our country."[8] By 1906, Swarthmore had dropped its religious affiliation and became officially non-sectarian.[9]

Swarthmore College
MottoMind the Light[1][2]
Endowment$2.116 billion (2018)[3]
PresidentValerie Smith
Academic staff
207 [4]
Undergraduates1,647 (Fall 2018)[4]
Location, ,
United States
CampusSuburban, 425 acres (1.72 km2)
ColorsGarnet and Gray
AthleticsNCAA Division III-Centennial Conference
NicknameThe Garnet
MascotPhineas the Phoenix[5]

Swarthmore is a member of the Tri-College Consortium along with Bryn Mawr and Haverford College, a cooperative academic arrangement between the three schools. Swarthmore is also affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania through the Quaker Consortium, which allows for students to cross-register for classes at all four institutions.[10] Swarthmore offers over 600 courses a year in more than 40 areas of study, including an ABET accredited engineering program which culminates with a Bachelor of Science in engineering.[11] Swarthmore has a variety of sporting teams with a total of 22 Division III Varsity Intercollegiate Sports Teams and competes in the Centennial Conference, a group of private colleges in Pennsylvania and Maryland.[12]

Despite the school's small size, Swarthmore alumni have attained prominence in a broad range of fields. Graduates include five Nobel Prize winners (as of 2016, the third-highest number of Nobel Prize winners per graduate in the U.S.),[13] 11 MacArthur Foundation fellows, 30 Rhodes Scholars, 27 Truman Scholars, 10 Marshall Scholars, 201 Fulbright Grantees, and many noteworthy figures in law, art, science, academia, business, politics, and other fields.


The name "Swarthmore" has its roots in early Quaker history. In England, Swarthmoor Hall near the town of Ulverston, Cumbria, (previously in Lancashire) was the home of Thomas and Margaret Fell in 1652 when George Fox, (1624–1691), 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 of his views. Swarthmoor was used for the first meetings of what became known as the Religious Society of Friends (later colloquially labeled "The Quakers").

The College was founded in 1864 by a committee of members of the Hicksite Yearly Meetings of Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore and is the only college founded by the Hicksite branch of the Society of Friends: previous Quaker institutions, like the nearby Haverford College, were Orthodox. It had its first classes in 1869[8] and Edward Parrish (1822–1872) was the first president. Lucretia Mott (1793–1880) and Martha Ellicott Tyson (1795–1873)[14] were among those Friends, who insisted that the new college of Swarthmore be coeducational. Edward Hicks Magill, the second president, served for 17 years.[15] His daughter, Helen Magill, (1853–1944), was in the first class to graduate in 1873; in 1877, she was the first woman in the United States to earn a Doctor of Philosophy degree, (Ph.D.); hers was in Greek from Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.[16]

In the early 1900s, the College had a major collegiate American football program during the formation period of the soon-to-be nationwide sport, (playing Navy, (Annapolis), Princeton, Columbia, and other larger schools) and an active fraternity and sorority life.[17] The 1921 appointment of Frank Aydelotte as President began the development of the school's current academic focus, particularly with his vision for the Honors program based on his experience as a Rhodes Scholar.[18]

During World War II, Swarthmore was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program, which offered students a path to a U.S. Navy commission.[19]

Wolfgang Köhler, Hans Wallach and Solomon Asch were noted psychologists who became professors at Swarthmore, a center for Gestalt psychology. Both Wallach, who was Jewish, and Köhler, who was not, had left Nazi Germany because of its discriminatory policies against Jews. Köhler came to Swarthmore in 1935 and served until his retirement in 1958. Wallach came in 1936, first as a researcher, and also teaching from 1942 until 1975. Asch, who was Polish-American and had immigrated as a child to the US in 1920, joined the faculty in 1947 and served until 1966, conducting his noted conformity experiments at Swarthmore.[20]

The 1960s and 1970s saw the construction of new buildings – the Sharples Dining Hall in 1964, the Worth Health Center in 1965, the Dana/Hallowell Residence Halls in 1967, and the Lang Music Building in 1973.[8] They also saw a 1967 review of the college initiated by President Courtney Smith, a 1969 black protest movement, in which African-American students conducted an eight-day sit-in in the admissions office to demand increased black enrollment, and the establishment of the Black Cultural Center (1970) and the Women's Resource Center (1974).[8][21][22] The Environmental Studies program and the Intercultural Center were established in 1992, and in 1993 the Lang Performing Arts Center was opened; the Kohlberg Hall was then established in 1996 and a renovation of the Trotter hall was undertaken in 1997.[8] In 1999 the college began purchasing renewable energy credits in the form of wind power, and in the 2002–2003 academic year it constructed its first green roof.[8] In 2008, Swarthmore's first mascot, Phineas the Phoenix, made its debut.[8]


Swarthmore's Oxbridge tutorial-inspired Honors Program allows students to take double-credit seminars from their third 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 final year, Honors students take oral and written examinations conducted by outside experts in their field. Usually one student in each discipline is awarded "Highest Honors"; others are either awarded "High Honors" or "Honors"; rarely, a student is denied Honors altogether by the outside examiner. Each department usually has a grade threshold for admission to the Honors program.[23]

Uncommon for a liberal arts college, Swarthmore has an engineering program in which at the completion of four years' work, students are granted a B.S. in Engineering. Other notable programs include minors in peace and conflict studies, cognitive science, and interpretation theory.[11]

Swarthmore has a total undergraduate student enrollment of 1,620 (for the 2016–2017 year) and 187 faculty members (99% with a terminal degree), for a student-faculty ratio of 8:1. The small college offers more than 600 courses a year in over 40 courses of study.[24] Swarthmore has a reputation as a very academically oriented college, with 66% of students participating in undergraduate research or independent creative projects, and 90% of graduates eventually attending graduate or professional school.


University rankings
Forbes[25] 25
Times/WSJ[26] 28
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[27] 3
Washington Monthly[28] 15

Some sources, including Greene's Guides,[29] have termed Swarthmore one of the "Little Ivies". In its 2019 college ranking, the national news magazine, U.S. News & World Report ranked Swarthmore as the third-best liberal arts college in the nation, behind Williams, Amherst and tied with Wellesley.[30] Since the inception of the "U.S. News" rankings, Amherst, Williams, and Swarthmore are the only colleges to have been ranked for the number one liberal arts college. Swarthmore has been ranked the number one liberal arts college in the country a total of six times.[31]

In its 2019 ranking of 650 U.S. colleges, universities and service academies, Forbes magazine ranked Swarthmore twenty-fifth.[32]

Swarthmore ranked fourth among all institutions of higher education in the United States as measured by the percentage of graduates who went on to earn Ph.D.s between 2002–2011.[33]

Swarthmore ranked tenth among all colleges and sixth for liberal arts colleges only in the number of schools that selected it as a peer institution.[34] Swarthmore selected Amherst, Bowdoin, Carleton, Davidson, Haverford, Middlebury, Oberlin, Pomona, Trinity, Wesleyan, and Williams as schools of comparable academic quality.[35]

In 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013,[36] Swarthmore was named the #1 "Best Value" private college by The Princeton Review.[37] Overall selection criteria included more than 30 factors in three areas: academics, costs and financial aid. Swarthmore was also placed on The Princeton Review's Financial Aid Honor Roll along with twelve other institutions for receiving the highest possible rating in its ranking methodology.[38]


Admission Statistics
  2018[39][40] 2017[41][42] 2016[43] 2015[44] 2014[45]
Applicants 10,749
Admits 1,016
Admit rate 9.45%
Enrolled 422
SAT range (Critical Reading + Math) N/A
ACT range N/A

The college is considered by U.S. News & World Report as "most selective", with 10.7% accepted of the 9,383 applicants during the 2016–2017 admissions cycle.[42] The number of applicants was the highest in the college's history and among the highest overall of any liberal arts college.[46][47][48][49] The college saw increases in the number of underrepresented students, first generation college students, and international students. The college reports that "Twenty-five percent of the admitted students are among the first generation in their family to attend college" and "Of the admitted students attending high schools reporting class rank, 94 percent are in the top decile".[41] The 2018 admission statistics are only partially released; it is known so far that 10,749 applicants resulted in 1,016 admits for an admit rate of 9.45%.[39][40]

In 2012, The Princeton Review gave Swarthmore a 99 out of 99 on their Admissions Selectivity Rating.[50]


At Swarthmore, 16% of earners of undergraduate degrees immediately enter graduate or professional school, and within five years of graduation 77% of alumni enter these programs. Alumni of the school earn graduate degrees most commonly at institutions that include University of California-Berkeley, University of Michigan, Harvard, Columbia, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, Cambridge University, Oxford University, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Yale.[51] At graduate programs, the most common fields for Swarthmore graduates to enter are humanities, math & physical sciences, life sciences, and social sciences.[51]

PayScale reports that Swarthmore graduates have an average starting salary of $61,300 and an average mid-career salary of $130,900, making their salaries 39th highest among all colleges and universities, and 10th among liberal arts colleges alone.[52][53]

Endowment and tuition

The cost of tuition, student activity fees, room, and board for the 2017–2018 academic year was $65,774 (tuition alone was $50,424).[24] The college claims to meet one hundred percent of admitted students' demonstrated need. In total, 56% of the student body receives financial aid, and the average financial aid award was $50,361 during the 2017–18 year.[7] As a need-blind school, Swarthmore makes admission decisions and financial aid decisions independently.

Swarthmore's endowment at the end of the 2016 fiscal year was $1,746,962,000. Endowment per student was $1,078,371 for the same year, one of the highest rates in the country. Operating revenue for the 2016 fiscal year was $148,086,000, over 50% of which was provided by the endowment.[7] 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. As of 2019, Swarthmore's endowment is $2.1 billion.

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.[54]


The campus consists of 425 acres (1.72 km2), 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 fourth floor houses campus radio station WSRN-FM as well as the weekly student newspaper, The Phoenix. Many acres are wooded and include trails.

From the SEPTA Swarthmore commuter train station and the "ville" or borough of Swarthmore to the south, the oak-lined Magill Walk leads north up a hill to Parrish. The campus is coterminous with the grounds of the Scott Arboretum, cited by some as a main staple of the campus's renowned beauty.[55] In 2011, Travel+Leisure named Swarthmore one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.[56]

The majority of the buildings housing classrooms and department offices are located to the north of Parrish, as are Kyle and Woolman dormitories. McCabe Library is to the east of Parrish, as are the dorms Willets, Mertz, Worth, The Lodges, Alice Paul, and David Kemp. To the west are the dorms Wharton, Dana, Hallowell, and Danawell, along with the Scott Amphitheater, an open wooded outdoor amphitheater, in which graduations and college collections (meetings) are held. The Crum Woods extend westward from the main campus, and many buildings on the forest side of the campus incorporate views of the woods. South of Parrish are Sharples dining hall and other smaller buildings. Palmer, Pittenger, and Roberts dormitories are south of the railroad station, as are the athletic facilities, while the Mary Lyon dorm is off-campus to the southwest.[57]

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.[58] Since 1923, McCabe library has been a Federal Depository library for selected U.S. Government documents.

The birthplace of American artist Benjamin West is on the campus.

Friends Historical Library

Friends Historical Library was established in 1871 to collect, preserve, and make available archival, manuscript, printed, and visual records concerning the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) from their origins mid-seventeenth century to the present. Besides the focus on Quaker history, the holdings are a significant research collection for the regional and local history of the middle-Atlantic region of the United States and the history of American social reform. Quakers played prominent roles in almost every major reform movement in American history, including abolition, African-American history, Indian rights, women's rights, prison reform, humane treatment of the mentally ill, and temperance. The collections also reflect the significant role Friends played in the development of science, technology, education, and business in Britain and America. The Library also maintains the Swarthmore College Archives and the papers of the Swarthmore Historical Society.[59][60]

Within the archives is what was formerly known as the Jane Addams Peace Collection and later called the Swarthmore College Peace Collection (SCPC).[61] The SCPC includes papers from Jane Addams' collection and material from over 59 countries.[62] The Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to Addams, is part of the collection.[62] The SCPC states that "Well over fifty percent of all the holdings in the Peace Collection concern women's activism around the world."[63] The SCPC was started when a member of the board of managers discovered that Addams was burning her old papers, and convinced her to donate them instead to the Friends Historical Library.[64] After World War II, the librarian at Princeton University, Julian P. Boyd, appraised the papers in the SCPC's collection and found that they were of "rare historic value".[65]

Student life

Mock Trial

Founded in 2000,[66] the Swarthmore Mock Trial team placed 10th at the 2000 American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) National Championship Tournament and was awarded "Best New School". Dennis Cheng '01 was awarded the prestigious "Spirit of AMTA" award in 2000.[67][68] Swarthmore's team placed 2nd at the 2001 AMTA National Championship Tournament.[68] The Swarthmore Mock Trial program has also won numerous accolades and boasted a team of over 25 members for the 2013–2014 season. The 2010–2011 competitive season resulted in all three teams competing at Regional Championships, two teams going on to Opening Round Championships, and one team qualifying and competing at the 2011 National Championships held in Des Moines, Iowa, where the team placed 15th in their division. Other successes included placing first at the Philadelphia Regional competition in February 2011, and winning the University of Massachusetts Amherst's invitational tournament in February 2014.[69]

The Amos J. Peaslee Debate Society

The Amos J. Peaslee Debate Society, named after a former United States Ambassador to Australia, is one of the few independently endowed organizations on campus. Members of the Society debate on the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) circuit in addition to traveling abroad to Britain, Canada, and the World Universities Debating Championship for British Parliamentary Style tournaments. The team has won four APDA national championships, including one as recently as 2017. It has also won Team of the Year two times and Speaker of the Year once. In 2018, it was ranked as the top liberal arts debate program in the country.

Greek life

Until 2019, two Greek organizations existed on the campus in the form of fraternities: Delta Upsilon and local Phi Psi, a former chapter of Phi Kappa Psi. A third, Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, maintained a chapter on campus from 1906 to 1991 and continues strong alumni involvement.[70][71]

Sororities were abandoned in the 1930s following student outrage about discrimination within the sorority system, and leading to a 79-year ban.[72][73] However, in September 2012, the college announced that the ban on sororities would be reversed as of the 2013 term, citing Title IX regulations.[74] The four women who helped overturn the ban subsequently spearheaded the reestablishment of a Kappa Alpha Theta chapter the following spring.[75][76] The announcement sparked controversy on campus; a petition seeking a referendum to continue the ban was dismissed, again citing a legal opinion that to disallow the sorority chapter would be a violation of Title IX regulations. The sorority admitted its first pledge class in the Spring of 2013. A further non-binding referendum was later distributed, but by then the controversy had cooled: Of the six items on the referendum, only one passed, which asked "Do you support admitting students of all genders to sororities and fraternities?" No action was taken on the referendum.[77]

In April 2019, two student publications, Voices and The Phoenix, published leaked minutes from Swarthmore's chapter of Phi Psi dating from 2013 to 2016. The 116-page document contained a plethora of misogynistic, racist, and homophobic jokes and slurs as well as pornographic images and evidence of hazing.[78][79] Students responded by calling for the college's administration to immediately terminate all fraternity leases on campus, staging a sit-in at the Phi Psi house until the demands were met.[80] Both Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi announced their voluntary disbandment on April 30, 2019.[71] President Valerie Smith subsequently announced on May 10, 2019 that Greek letter organizations were no longer allowed at Swarthmore.[81]


Swarthmore has a variety of sporting teams with a total of 22 NCAA Division III varsity intercollegiate sports teams. 40 percent of Swarthmore students play intercollegiate or club sports.[82] Varsity teams include badminton, baseball, basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field and volleyball. The football team was controversially eliminated in 2000, along with wrestling and, initially, badminton. The Board of Managers cited lack of athletes on campus and difficulty of recruiting as reasons for terminating the programs.[83][84] Swarthmore also offers a number of club sport options, including men's and women's rugby, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, fencing, and squash.[85]

Swarthmore is a charter member of the Centennial Conference, a group of private colleges in Pennsylvania and Maryland.[12]

Swarthmore's varsity women's soccer team has won the Centennial Conference Championship three times (2014, 2017, 2018).[86]

Student safety

Based on federal campus safety data for 2014, Swarthmore College was the third highest in the nation in "total reports of rape per 1,000 students" on its main campus, with 11 reports of rape per 1,000 students.[87] In 2018 there were 6 reports of rape, or 3.85 reports per 1,000 students.[88]


Swarthmore has two main student news publications. The weekly newspaper, The Phoenix, is published nearly every Thursday. Founded in 1881, the paper began putting stories online in 1995. Two thousand copies are distributed across the college campus and to the Borough of Swarthmore. The newspaper is printed by Hocking News in Lancaster County.[89]

The online daily newspaper, Voices, was born after the previous daily online publication The Daily Gazette was criticized widely on campus for problematic views. The publication focuses on Audre Lorde's notion that "your silence will not protect you", opening up critical campus conversations, reflecting the perspectives and protecting the livelihoods of those who are marginalized through advocacy, listening, and empowerment, according to its website.[90]

There are a number of magazines at Swarthmore, most of which are published semiannually at the end of each semester. One is Spike, Swarthmore's humor magazine, founded in 1993. The others are literary magazines, including Nacht, which publishes long-form non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and artwork; 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 Swarthmore Warders of Imaginative Literature (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. There is also a new photography magazine, Pun/ctum, which features work from students and alumni.[91]

A cappella

The collegiate a cappella groups include Sixteen Feet, the College's oldest group (founded in 1981), as well as its first and only all-male group. Grapevine is its corresponding all-female group (founded in 1983), and Mixed Company is a co-ed group. Chaverim is a co-ed group that includes students from the Tri-College Consortium and draws on music from cultures around the world for its repertoire. Lastly, OffBeat was founded in the fall of 2013 as a co-ed group. The groups, self-run as volunteer clubs with college support, travel to other schools to participate in concerts. Once every semester, all of the school's a cappella groups collaborate for a joint concert called Jamboree, which includes visiting groups from other colleges and universities.[92]


WSRN 91.5 FM is the college radio station. It has a mix of indie, rock, hip-hop, electronic dance, 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 1969 black protest movement extensively.[93] In the 1990s, WSRN centered its programming on the immensely popular "Hank and Bernie Show", starring undergraduates Hank Hanks and Bernie Bernstein. Hank and Bernie conducted wide-ranging and entertaining interviews of sports stars and cultural icons such as Lou Piniella, Mark Grace, Jake Plummer, Greg Ostertag, Andy Karich and Mark "the Bird" Fidrych, and also engaged the Swarthmore community in discussions on campus issues and current events. Upwards of 90 percent of the Swarthmore community would tune in to the Hank and Bernie Show and many members of the surrounding villages and towns would also listen and call in. Many archived recordings of musical and spoken word performances exist, such as the once-annual Swarthmore Folk Festival.[94] Today WSRN focuses virtually exclusively on entertainment, though it has covered significant news developments such as the athletic cuts in 2000[95] and the effects of the September 11 attacks on campus. War News Radio and The Sudan Radio Project (formerly the Darfur Radio Project) do broadcast news on WSRN, however. Currently, the longest running show in WSRN's lineup is "Oído al Tambor", which focuses on news and music from Latin America. The show has been running non-stop, on Sundays from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., since September 2006. After its members graduated in December 2009, the show's concept was revived by the show "Rayuela", which has been running since September 2009. Another notable show is Deep Sound,[96] hosted by Swarthmore students Arjun Madan and Steven Hergenroeder who mix their top house, deep house, techno, and trance tracks live on set.

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.[97] A fire horn is located within the Swarthmore campus and its sound has become a fixture of campus life.[98] Students affectionately refer to the noise as the call of the Fire Moose or the Space Whale, although the names themselves are in a constant state of evolution.

Swarthmore College Computer Society

Swarthmore College Computer Society (SCCS) is a student-run volunteer organization independent of the official ITS department of the college.[99] 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, SCCS hosts over 100 mailing lists used by various student groups, and over 130 organizational websites, including the website of the student newspaper, The Daily Gazette. SCCS also provides a computer lab and gaming room, located in Clothier basement beneath Essie Mae's snack bar.[100]


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.[101]

SCCS was noted in PC Magazine's article "Top 20 Wired Colleges" as one of the reasons for ranking Swarthmore #4 on that list.[102] 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.

Three SCCS-related papers have been accepted for publication at the USENIX Large Installation System Administration (LISA) Conference, one of which was awarded Best Paper.[103][104][105][106]


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 11 MacArthur Foundation fellows (second highest per graduate and ninth highest overall of any college or university in the U.S.), and hundreds of prominent figures in law, art, science, business, politics, and other fields.


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