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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


"If you're a genuine intellectual, live the life of the mind, and want to learn for the sake of learning, the place most likely to empower you is not Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Chicago, or Stanford. It is the most intellectual college in the country--Reed, in Portland, Oregon," says Loren Pope, former education editor of the New York Times, in his new book, Colleges That Change Lives (Penguin, 1996).

"To faculty members, teaching at Reed is like going to heaven," Pope continues. "They got their doctorates from and taught at all the top schools, but never before had the pleasure of teaching students interested in learning."

After years as an education journalist and university administrator, Pope founded the Washington, D.C.-based College Placement Bureau out of frustration and concern with the lack of meaningful information available to consumers--prospective students and their families--about colleges. Disdainful of the current mania over rankings, he congratulates Reed President Steven Koblik for being one of the few presidents "with the courage to refuse to participate in the U.S. News and World Report's inherently phony idea of rating colleges by statistical data, like trying to quantify a human being. The simplistic results do a great disservice to society."

Colleges That Change Lives includes profiles of 40 schools that Pope thinks are better places for learning than the big universities and Ivy League schools, debunking many of the most popular myths along the way. (He used to write a syndicated column called "Twenty Myths That Can Jinx Your College Choice.") Pope, who has been advising college-bound students for more than 30 years, personally visited each of the campuses for this book, some for the second or third time. He sat in on conference classes at Reed. Of that experience, he says, "I've never listened to a discussion group that was sharper or more probing, even at St. Johns, where it is standard fare, than those at Reed."

Pope makes special note of the percentage of Reed alumni who go on to earn doctorates, especially in the sciences, as well as Reed's 30 Rhodes Scholars, a number matched by only one other small college (Williams). He also notes that "Reed has an unmatched record of turning out high achievers; winners of the major graduate fellowships, future scientists and scholars, and notables in many fields."

Pope closes his essay on Reed by declaring that "Reed is a precious asset of American democracy. It develops people with intellectual openness and honesty, clear thinkers who are not afraid of new or unpopular ideas, men and women who have the character and ability to make the increasingly tough decisions in an increasingly complex and troubled society. Only those willing to pay the price are either likely to come or to prosper here. But in an ideal society, everyone's education would do as much as Reed does to empower a young mind and spirit."

Other institutions featured in the book include Pacific Northwest colleges Evergreen and Whitman, St. John's College in New Mexico and Maryland, Grinnell College in Iowa, Earlham College in Indiana, St. Olaf in Minnesota, Centre College in Kentucky, College of Wooster in Ohio, and Hampshire College in Massachusetts.

Pope is also the author of The Right College: How to Get In, Stay In, Get Back In (Macmillan, 1970) and Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That's Right for You (Penguin, 1990, 1995).