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 pejoratively labeled ""The Quakers").
The College was founded in 1864 by a committee of Quakers who were members of the Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore Yearly Meetings of the "Religious Society of Friends" ("Quakers"/"Hicksite"). Edward Parrish, (1822–1872), was its first president. Lucretia Mott, (1793–1880), and Martha Ellicott Tyson, (1795–1873), were among those Friends, who insisted that the new college of Swarthmore be coeducational. Edward Hicks Magill, the second president, served for 17 years. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
On April 20, 2016, the United States Department of the Treasury announced that Lucretia Mott, a founder of the College, and Alice Paul, class of 1905, will be incorporated into the new design for the $10 bill.
Swarthmore's Oxbridge tutorial-inspired Honors Program allows students to take double-credit seminars from their junior 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 senior 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 any Honors altogether by the outside examiner. Each department usually has a grade threshold for admission to the Honors program.
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.
Swarthmore has a total undergraduate student enrollment of 1,534 (for the 2013–2014 year) and 178 faculty members (98% 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. Swarthmore has a reputation as a very academically oriented college, with 90% of graduates eventually attending graduate or professional school.
While many in higher education recognize the college's relative lack of grade inflation, there is some controversy over the accuracy of such perceptions. One study by a Swarthmore professor in 1993 found "significant grade inflation." However, other professors and students dispute the findings based on their own experience. Some have pointed out that statistics suggesting grade inflation over the past decades may be exaggerated by reporting practices, and the fact that grades were not given in the Honors program until 1996. In the end, many still credit Swarthmore with having resisted grade inflation, bucking the perceived trend amongst peer institutions.
Some sources, including Greene's Guides, have termed Swarthmore one of the "Little Ivies". In its 2013 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 and Amherst. 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 (the most recent being in 2002).
In its 2016 ranking of U.S. colleges and universities, Forbes magazine ranked Swarthmore tenth in the nation. In the March/April 2007 edition of Foreign Policy magazine, a ranking of the top twenty institutions for the study of international relations placed Swarthmore as the highest-ranked undergraduate-only institution, coming in at 15. The only other undergraduate-focused programs to make the list were Dartmouth and Williams, although neither school is exclusively undergraduate.
Swarthmore ranks 10th in The Wall Street Journal's 2004 survey of feeder schools to top ranked business, medical, and law schools. 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.
Swarthmore ranked tenth among all colleges and sixth for liberal arts colleges only in the amount of schools that selected it as a peer institution. Swarthmore selected Amherst, Bowdoin, Carleton, Davidson, Haverford, Middlebury, Oberlin, Pomona, Trinity, Wesleyan, and Williams as schools of comparable academic quality.
In 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013, Swarthmore was named the #1 "Best Value" private college by The Princeton Review. 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.
The college is considered by U.S. News & World Report as "most selective", with 12.5% accepted of the 7,818 applicants during the 2014–2015 admissions cycle, a 4.5% drop in acceptance. Of those admitted, the college reports that of the 44% who reported rank, "33 percent are valedictorians or salutatorians.  percent are in [the] top two percent of their high school class and 94 percent are in the top decile." Furthermore, 8.49% of 212 transfer applicants were admitted.
In 2012, The Princeton Review gave Swarthmore a 99 out of 99 on their Admissions Selectivity Rating. In the November 2003 selectivity ranking for undergraduate programs, The Atlantic magazine ranked Swarthmore as the only liberal arts college to make the top ten institutions, placing Swarthmore in tenth place.
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, Oxford, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Yale. At graduate programs, the most common fields for Swarthmore graduates to enter are humanities, math & physical sciences, life sciences, and social sciences.
PayScale reports that Swarthmore graduates with only a bachelor's degree have an average starting salary of $51,000 and an average mid-career salary of $109,000, making their salaries 36th highest among all colleges and 11th among liberal arts colleges alone.
The cost of tuition, student activity fees, room, and board for the 2013–2014 academic year was $57,870 (tuition alone was $44,368). One hundred percent of admitted students' demonstrated need is offered by the college. In total, about half of the student body receives financial aid, and the average financial aid award was $38,701 during the 2013–14 year. As a need-blind school, Swarthmore makes admission decisions and financial aid decisions independently.
Swarthmore's endowment at the end of the 2010 fiscal year was $1,249,254,000. Endowment per student was $819,720 for the same year, one of the highest rates in the country. Operating revenue for the 2010 fiscal year was $108,600,000, over 40% of which was provided by the endowment. 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.
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.
The campus consists of 399 acres (1.61 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.
From the SEPTA Swarthmore commuter train station and the ville of Swarthmore to the south, the oak-lined Magill Walk leads north up a hill to Parrish. The campus is also adjacent to the Scott Arboretum, cited by some as a main staple of the campus's renowned beauty. In 2011, Travel+Leisure named Swarthmore as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.
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 of Willets, Mertz, Worth, The Lodges, Alice Paul, and David Kemp. To the west are the dorms of Wharton, Dana, Hallowell, and Danawell, along with the Scott Amphitheater. The Crum Woods extend westward from the campus, toward the Crum Creek. South of Parrish are Sharples dining hall, the two non-residential fraternities (Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon), and various other 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.
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. In total, the libraries hold over 800,000 print volumes as well as an expanding digital library of over 10,000 online journal subscriptions, reference materials, e-books, and other scholarly databases. Since 1923, McCabe library has been a Federal Depository library for selected U.S. Government documents.
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 obvious 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.
Founded in 2000, the Swarthmore Mock Trial program has 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.
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 circuit in addition to traveling abroad to Britain, Canada, and the World Universities Debating Championship for British Parliamentary Style tournaments.
Two Greek organizations exist 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.
Sororities were abandoned in the 1930s following student outrage about discrimination within the sorority system, and leading to a 79-year ban. However, in September 2012, the college announced that the ban on sororities would be reversed as of the 2013 term, citing Title IX regulations. The four women who helped overturn the ban subsequently spearheaded the reestablishment of a Kappa Alpha Theta chapter the following spring. 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.
Swarthmore has a variety of sporting teams with a total of 22 Division III Varsity Intercollegiate Sports Teams. 40 percent of Swarthmore students play intercollegiate or club sports. 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. Swarthmore also offers a number of club sport options, including men's and women's rugby, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, fencing, squash, and quidditch.
Swarthmore is a charter member of the Centennial Conference, a group of private colleges in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Swarthmore has two main student news publications.
The weekly newspaper is called The Phoenix, is published nearly every Thursday. Founded in 1881, the paper began putting stories online in 1995. Its current tabloid format is more similar to a newsmagazine than a newspaper, with a color front cover. Two thousand copies are distributed across the college campus and to the Borough of Swarthmore. The newspaper is printed by Bartash Printing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
There are a number of magazines at Swarthmore, most of which are published biannually 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.
The school's yearbook, The Halcyon, has been published annually since 1887. Because Commencement is such an important event, The Halcyon includes professional photos of the ceremony and is therefore printed later, in the fall. The new alumni, however, receive their book in the mail over the summer. The Halcyon is free to all students who attended Swarthmore for at least one semester during the academic year it covers. As a result, The Halcyon is the college's most costly student publication and there is currently a movement to offer books free only to seniors, and to reallocate money towards subsidizing student textbook costs.
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, 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. Once every semester, all of the school's a cappella groups collaborate for a joint concert called Jamboree.
WSRN 91.5 FM is the college radio station. It has a mix of indie, rock, hip-hop, 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 "Crisis of '69", extensively. 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. Today WSRN focuses virtually exclusively on entertainment, though it has covered significant news developments such as the athletic cuts in 2000 and the effects of 11 September 2001 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.
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.
Swarthmore College Computer Society (SCCS) is a student-run volunteer organization independent of the official ITS department of the college. 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.
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.
SCCS was noted in PC Magazine's article "Top 20 Wired Colleges" as one of the reasons for ranking Swarthmore #4 on that list. 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.
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 and hundreds of prominent figures in law, art, science, business, politics, and other fields.Suffragist and National Women's Party founder Alice Paul belonged to the class of 1905;
Nancy Roman (1946) NASA's first Chief of Astronomy in the Office of Space Science, 'mother of the Hubble telescope'
Michael Dukakis (1955) was the Democratic nominee in the 1988 presidential election
Novelist James A. Michener (1929) left his entire $10 million estate (including the copyrights to his works) to Swarthmore.
Robert Zoellick (1976), former president of the World Bank.
John C. Mather (1968), American astrophysicist, cosmologist, and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate for his work on COBE with George Smoot.
David K. Lewis (1962), ground-breaking philosopher known for his work in Analytic Metaphysics, rated by fellow academics as one of the fifteen most important philosophers in the past 200 years.
Isabel Briggs Myers (1919), co-creator of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment.
Thomas B. McCabe (1915), 8th Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the President and CEO of Scott Paper Company.
Newton Ennis Morton, Founder of the field of genetic epidemiology and William Allan award winner.
David L. Cohen (1977), American businessman, attorney, and political figure in Pennsylvania. He is best known for being a close confidant of former Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, and he is the executive vice president of Comcast; the company’s chief of lobbying.
Carol Gilligan (1958), American feminist, ethicist, and psychologist best known for her work on ethical community and ethical relationships.
Harold E. Mertz (1926), Founder & CEO, Publisher's Clearing House
Christina Paxson (1982), 19th President of Brown University, 2012-