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Thomas Aquinas College comes to Massachusetts

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To parents who doubt the value of a classic liberal education -- and I can hear in my head the voices of parents who want their kids to be engineers, doctors and lawyers -- they should consider seriously what Thomas Aquinas College is offering.

Thomas
Carroll

The newest Catholic college campus in America is one of the best I've seen.

In August 2019, Thomas Aquinas College began its classes amidst the rolling hills of Northfield, Massachusetts, about 90 miles west of Boston. This college is the New England campus of the famed Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California.

I recently spent a Friday sitting in on classes at Thomas Aquinas College, talking with faculty and students, and touring the grounds -- all amidst the splendor of the rich and varied colors of a New England autumn.

The experience was the opposite of my own college experience at a large public university in New York, where many of my classes were held in large anonymous lecture halls holding 400-500 students.

Importantly, all the students at Thomas Aquinas College want to be here. They aren't simply punching a clock on the way to an eventual job.

Every single student is devoutly Catholic and among the smartest I've seen on any campus.

In the freshman classes I observed, the dozen or so students were engaged, well prepared, focused, and intellectually curious. I frankly had trouble imagining that they were in high school just five months earlier.

The students also were respectful of fellow students (referring to classmates as Miss or Mister), willing to take intellectual risks, and supportive of each other as they worked through mathematical problems or how to interpret passages of the Bible.

Their professors (called tutors) employed the Socratic Method, serving as a gentle rudder for classroom discussions but allowing students the freedom to learn from each other and find their way. The seriousness of purpose I witnessed was breathtaking.

And, in none of the classes did I witness any student as much as glance at a cell phone. This alone counts as a certified miracle these days.

Thomas Aquinas College is not for every student. Some will want a big campus, Division I sports, an urban feel, a change of scenery from New England weather, or license to craft an incoherent education out of endless electives. Some will favor a purely vocational approach to higher education pursuing a specific job they have in mind.

But students who take their Catholic faith seriously, want a classical education based on the best texts of Western Civilization, and seek an incredibly vibrant, intellectual environment would be hard pressed to find better.

No textbooks. No lectures. Socratic approach. Classroom discussions based on original works by Aristotle, Aquinas, Plato, Euclid, Shakespeare, Einstein, Herodotus, Homer, and the Bible.

To parents who doubt the value of a classic liberal education -- and I can hear in my head the voices of parents who want their kids to be engineers, doctors and lawyers -- they should consider seriously what Thomas Aquinas College is offering.

Thomas Aquinas College is offering nothing less than the chance to help ensure your child a life of faith, give them a broad ranging education that likely will prepare them better for the varied careers they will have over a lifetime (many of them unexpected), teach them to respect others, and work and think through intellectual challenges collaboratively. These are skills and gifts that will prepare them well in life and the workplace.

As an educator, I can assure you that what Thomas Aquinas College offers few colleges promise or fulfill.

Graduates of the Thomas Aquinas College in California have entered diverse fields, including architecture, law, medicine, software development, business, and military service. Others have pursued vocations in the priesthood and religious life. These kids will not be living in their parents' basements.

Speaking to faculty members throughout my visit, each tutor felt strongly that teaching these highly motivated, smart and faithful students was the privilege of a lifetime. That attitude from professors is what every parent and grandparent should want for their family members.

A few other features to know: daily traditional Latin Mass; single-gender dorms, and a faculty that is 100 percent practicing Catholic. All professors ("tutors") are required to take an "oath of fidelity" to the teachings of the Catholic Church in front of the entire student body.

If you're a grandparent worried about whether your grandchildren will remain faithful Catholics, don't save your money for an inheritance. Instead, help pay for your grandsons and granddaughters to attend Thomas Aquinas College.

Lastly, Thomas Aquinas College, because of the philanthropy it attracts, is structuring financial aid to meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need and cap student loan debt at $18,000 (not each year, but in total over four years!).

That's why Kiplinger personal finance magazine rated Thomas Aquinas College as "#1 best value" for all private and public colleges and universities in the nation and the "#1 best value" for liberal arts colleges.

Students and parents looking to learn more or to visit should contact the college or visit their website, www.thomasaquinas.edu. They admit students on a rolling basis with answers typically provided within two to four weeks. Applications already are being accepted for students entering in August 2020.

Current 11th graders can try out Thomas Aquinas College by participating in a High School Great Books Program from July 26 to Aug. 8 in 2020.

I would be happy to hear your thoughts on Thomas Aquinas College or other Catholic colleges you think are similar. Just email me at Thomas_Carroll@rcab.org. You also may follow me on Twitter: @BostonCathSupt.

Thomas Carroll is superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston.

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