Deep Springs College


Deep Springs College emphsizes academics, labor, and self-governance (Photo courtesy of flickr user Kevin Morrell).

Situated on a cattle-ranch and alfalfa farm in California’s High Desert is Deep Springs College, a liberal arts college that caters only to men. The student body enrollment is 26 if the college meets its annual goal, but the number is usually smaller. After two years of study students can petition for an Associate’s Degree, but the action usually does not happen; most students transfer to a university to complete their Bachelor’s. Recently, the Board of Trustees have elected to begin admitting female applicants in the summer of 2013, but legal actions may delay the approval until 2014.


Deep Springs College was founded on three principles: academics, labor, and self-governance. While enrolled, students are required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week either on the ranch and farm or in positions affiliated with the college or local community. In return, students are only required to pay for textbooks as tuition and room and board are included with admission.

The self-governance portion of the college’s philosophy introduces an interesting aspect to the school’s administrative areas. Students hold decision-making positions regarding admissions, curriculum and the hiring of faculty. As a requirement for enrollment, students must hold a position on one of the four standing committees: Applications, Curriculum, Communications or Review and Reinvitations.


Deep Springs College is isolated, with the closest town being Bishop, nearly an hour by car and over a mountain pass. In turn, the school has used its location to shape the educational experience for its students. The college has tried to remain self-sufficient both with food and energy and recently installed a small solar power system in 2006.

Notable Alumni

  • Robert B. Aird, neurologist
  • Mark Boulos, artist and filmmaker
  • Barney Childs, composer
  • Norton Dodge, economist
  • Thomas E. Fairchild, politician and federal judge
  • Philip Hanawalt, biologist
  • David Hitz, computer engineer
  • Walter Isaacson, biographer and former CEO of CNN and Managing Editor of Time
  • Raymond Jeanloz, professor of earth and planetary science and of astronomy
  • Benjamin Kunkel, novelist, founder of n+1 magazine
  • Jim Olin, U.S. Congressman
  • Herbert Reich, electrical engineer and inventor
  • Gustavus Simmons, mathematician and cryptographer
  • Robert Sproull, physicist and educator
  • Julian Steward, anthropologist
  • William vanden Heuvel, diplomat
  • William T. Vollmann, novelist


All faculty of Deep Springs College reside on the Main Circle, less than a minute’s walk from the dormitory. By working closely with faculty, both academically and in labor roles, students develop their own academic interests and goals to pursue. Students and faculty are so close, in fact, that according to the Deep Springs College website, “It is traditional for professors to leave their porch lights on in the evenings, an invitation for students to visit them at home”. While students regularly participate in composition courses, public speaking, summer seminars, directed and independent studies, humanities, social science courses, mathematics, and natural sciences, a well-rounded individual emerges after two years of enrollment.

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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