- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

RICHMOND (AP) — Founders College, a new private for-profit school, will start classes today with 10 students living on its Southside Virginia campus, a much smaller number than originally anticipated.

Founders College Education Inc. purchased Berry Hill Plantation, a former 660-acre resort in South Boston, Va., that once was one of Virginia“s largest tobacco plantations. The school will focus on offering a core liberal-arts education with a classical structure, and first- and second-year students will all take a common curriculum.

Nine faculty members will start teaching at the school, which charges $22,000 in tuition and $7,500 in room-and-board costs.

In addition to the resident students, who are from several states and Canada, two other degree-seeking students will take their course work online, said Jayne Pennington, dean of students.

In papers filed in August 2006 with the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia, organizers said they expected 600 applicants for the 2007-08 school year. They hoped to have 140 students in the inaugural class.

Miss Pennington said that the recruiting period for the first-year class was very short and that college officials plan to build next year’s class aggressively and increase the number of students taking online classes.

“We”re looking at next recruiting year as one of opportunity,” she said.

Founders also is establishing partnerships with other Southside schools, including making agreements that would allow community-college students to transfer to Founders and offering other programs to non-Founders students, Miss Pennington said.

The school also plans to increase revenue by operating an inn and marketing its curriculum via the Internet.

Founders College initially was the conception of Gary L. Hull, a former Duke University professor. He described himself as a follower of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand and objectivism, which embraces “rational individualism” and laissez-faire capitalism and rejects altruism and collectivism. But Mr. Hull — who denied that Founders would be an objectivist school — has dropped out of the school”s daily operations and is not listed on its Web site.

Its current chief executive is Tamara K. Fuller, an executive consultant and real-estate investor.

Virginia was the third state that Founders College Education considered for the school”s location. The company had applied in North Carolina and Maine but withdrew the attempts and turned its attention to Virginia in part because of more favorable regulatory factors, including less cumbersome education regulation.

The State Council for Higher Education of Virginia granted Founders operating authority in September 2006.

Founders College Education’s first attempt to establish a Virginia campus was rebuffed. The group initially wanted to buy the 1,100-acre Merritt Hutchinson Estate outside Lynchburg, but Campbell County planners balked at the request to rezone the property after they estimated the infrastructure upgrades that would have been required.

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