Getting To Know: Guilford College (NC)
Guilford College was the next stop on my North Carolina college tour. One of the Colleges That Change Lives, Guilford is a very residential liberal arts college. It has approximately 1,100 traditional and non-traditional undergrads. The non-traditional students include intellectually-mature high school age students as well as adults seeking continuing education.
I dropped some photos of this beautiful 350 acre campus below and collected some more for a Pinterest page.
The white building, Rachel’s is a coffee shop in the center of campus. The bottom photo is the science building, which has an observatory at the top. Walk around this campus for a full day and you would find a lake, nature trails and a working farm. The college is located in Greensboro, the third largest city in North Carolina. Greensboro is also home to North Carolina A&T and Bennett College, both Historically Black schools, as well as a campus of the University of North Carolina.
Liberal arts colleges have taken their lumps. Guilford has been no exception.
Five years ago, the college renovated freshman residence halls, the dining hall and athletic facilities. The following year, the college faced a $6 million operating deficit. forcing the administration to consider eliminating majors and faculty positions. However, under the leadership of an acting president (an alumnus and faculty member) and a strong alumni community, the college raised nearly $7 million!
That says a lot for loyalty to an institution and its mission. It also says a lot for the good and bad of social media. Student reactions to the proposed cuts likely forced the college to take a nasty hit in retention. Guilford lost 41 percent of the freshmen who entered in 2019. The losses dropped to 32 percent for the class that arrived the next fall. However, that class had 240 students versus nearly 370 the year before. Things have gotten better. There were 370 students in the Class of 2026. I’m going to give the college an Incomplete on retention and graduation rates. The community is still bonding in a recovery mode.
Over the past 11 years Guilford has attracted a more diverse student body.
In 2012 twenty-six percent of the students were men and women of color. Ten years later it was 53 percent, though the size of the traditional undergraduate student body (ages 18-22) had dropped from 1,225 to 980 students. At the same time, the college went from attracting half to two-thirds of its student body from North Carolina.
Based on my half-day visit, reading the most recent chapter in The Colleges That Change Lives and reading reviews, Guilford appears to appeal to a creative and/or socially-minded student more likely to lean left in their politics. Aside from athletes, who represent about 40 percent of the student body, there does not appear to be a dominant group on campus. I have to add that Guilford is the smallest college that I have visited that plays football. Overall, the college competes in 21 sports–same as North Carolina State–and has a competitive cheer squad. I have to guess that the opportunity to play a varsity sport has long been a draw for new students. This is a very ambitious athletic program for a small school, especially one that faced financial difficulties.
Guilford has neither fraternities nor sororities. The community appears to bond around events and student organizations as well as community service programs. The latest events, Guilford Madness, a three-day fundraiser, played around the theme of an NCAA Final Four tournament.
Guilford is run on Quaker values though it has redirected some of its academic focus.
One of 13 Quaker colleges in the US, Guilford operates along seven Core Values: Community, Diversity, Equality, Excellence, Integrity, Justice and Stewardship. These values drive the day-to-day life of the school, though it is fair to believe that they also dominate decision making. For example, Instead of creating new academic departments, the college designed new majors through faculty collaborations among existing departments. The Analytics major, for example, engages professors in Business, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics and Mathematics.
Guilford offers 47 majors, including options within Art, Computer Science, Environmental Studies and Modern Languages. Thirteen majors are outside of traditional liberal arts offerings, among them are Analytics, Criminal Justice, Exercise Science, Experience Design and Sport Management. The college also offers masters degrees in Business, Criminal Justice and International Sport Management. Guilford also offers an accelerated path to law school in partnership with Elon University as well as Post Bacc. Accounting, Education and Health Sciences programs.
The Guilford Edge takes an interesting approach to academics.
Small classes and an emphasis on hands-on collaborative learning are assured to each student throughout their academic journey. Advising is also collaborative. Each Guilfordian starts with a primary advisor who builds a team around them to help with academics, student affairs, study abroad and career development. The college also operates around a unique academic calendar where students take one class for three week, then take their remaining three classes for 12 weeks.
The college tries to make things work financially..
Working off a cost of attendance of approximately $60,000, it is possible to attend Guilford for less than it might cost for a very good student to attend Home State U or Neighboring State U.Guilford promises to hold tuition to the same rate from the freshman year through the senior year. Every student also receives a discount between $15,000 and $27,000 depending on the full review of their application as well as a $4,000 housing grant. There are also five other service-based awards programs to further reduce costs.
Any college community that can pull itself out of a $6 million hole and refocus on growth deserves respect from anyone who works around higher education. Guilford can be a nurturing community for a good student who sincerely wants to learn inside and outside of a traditional classroom experience. It can be a very good academic and financial fit for many students who want a small college, and an athletic fit for many, too. I also felt that Guilford has one of the nicer campuses among the Colleges That Change Lives that I have visited.. But it’s wise to take a hosted visit to see if it is a good social fit. This is a small community that is likely to remain small and tight knit for a little while longer.
Report Card: Guilford College (NC)
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: Incomplete
- Freshman Retention: Incomplete
- Costs: A
- Curriculum: A
- Community: A
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A (North Carolina, NYC, Washington DC)/C (elsewhere)
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
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