Oakland City University: The College on the Hill

Oakland City University, once known as the “college on the hill”, is a four year, fully accredited institution of higher learning located in southern Indiana. The school has been in operation since 1891, when it was funded and founded by the Educational Board of General Baptists. It’s the only General Baptist oriented school in the entire United States. Throughout the span of more than a century, Oakland City University has experienced many ups, downs, and drastic changes.

Yet, to this day, it remains one of the best kept secrets among Indiana colleges. Oakland City University rounds out the lower end of the spectrum of the 25 largest Indiana colleges and universities. Enrollment on the main campus is just over 700 students, and the combined total of all the campuses amounts to more than 2,000. The university is larger than Marian College, an Indianapolis school, and smaller than the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne.

Campuses and Culture

Oakland City University has one main campus and four satellite campuses around Indiana. The main campus is in Oakland City, Indiana, a small town that is within convenient travel distance of many major cities, like Cincinnati and Louisville. It’s roughly three hours away from Indianapolis, meaning that students probably won’t make the trip up north to take in all the Indianapolis attractions, but the town is half an hour from Evansville, home of the University of Southern Indiana and the University of Evansville.

The school began as a single building at the highest point in Oakland City (hence the “college on the hill”), but has since expanded to include several other classroom buildings, a gym, a library, and a Student Life Center. The main campus also has the Wilder Center, Oakland City’s home of adult education.

In addition to the main campus, Oakland City University also sponsors three different regional branches around Indiana. The Oakland City University Bedford Center is located in Bedford, Indiana, a town south of Indianapolis that’s been a thriving limestone deposit for several decades. The Bedford Center was founded in 1977, and it is always growing, just like Oakland City’s main campus. This satellite branch also sponsors cooperative undergraduate and graduate-level classes with Purdue University and Ball State University.

The Evansville Center focuses mainly on adult learning and accelerated degree programs for full time workers. The university also has an Indianapolis college, located just off I-465, near Castleton Square Mall, Fort Harrison State Park, and the northwest Indianapolis branch of the University of Phoenix. This branch only focuses on accelerated adult degrees, unlike other Indianapolis colleges like Indiana University – Purdue University (IUPUI) or Butler University. Oakland City University is also involved in prison ministry and education, offering bachelor’s and associate’s degrees out of several major correctional facilities.

Of all these campuses, the main campus in Oakland City is by far the liveliest and most involved. The school has several groups run by students dotting campus activity boards, meaning there’s always something to get involved with at Oakland City University. For almost every activity and cause imaginable, there’s a student organization. The campus has all types of societies, including religious groups, touring and local music groups, fraternities and sororities, performance and visual arts groups, and professional organizations like the Student Government Association.

If you’d like to see the fruits of Oakland City University’s creative minds, the place to go is the J. Michael Dunn Art Gallery. The gallery is the home of many exhibitions from students and professionals alike, including members of the Indianapolis art community. Oakland City alumni often display their works at the gallery, and it hosts senior shows for graduating art students. The gallery has the aesthetic quality of any Indianapolis art gallery, with a marble-fronted entryway, elegant brass fixtures, and the hushed respect you’ll find at any museum worth its salt. It’s a great place for Oakland City students to display their work and have it be appreciated. The gallery also hosts “Gallery Talks” for new exhibits. Gallery Talks are intended to educate attendants on the technique of the featured piece, allowing students to learn while they soak in the great art.


Oakland City University is dedicated to providing an excellent education for all of its students. The university is divided into five different departments: the School of Adult and Extended Learning, the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the School of Education, and the Chapman School of Religious Studies (also known as the Chapman Seminary). Within these five schools, students have the choice of a plethora of different majors, including criminal justice, humanities, graphic design, all stages of education, management, and many more. In addition, the Chapman Seminary trains the next generation of Baptist clergy. Each student at Oakland City University gets personal attention, because the student to faculty ratio is an excellent fourteen to one.

In addition to the standard degree programs at the main campus and the accelerated adult degrees at Oakland City University’s regional campuses, the school also offers a comprehensive distance learning program. While not as flexible as some other online learning opportunities, like at the University of Notre Dame or DePauw University, Oakland City University offers several courses online. However, since one of the goals of the school is to create a close-knit community of students, there are fairly stringent requirements on who can and cannot take online courses.

Traditional students are not allowed to enroll in online courses; they are only for non-traditional working adult students. While online programs at the University of Phoenix and Ivy Tech Community College offer full degrees online, the distance learning program at Oakland City University only provides individual classes. Students can take all required courses for their major online, but they’ll still be required to spend some face to face time with their instructors and fellow students. However, Oakland City University has a fairly wide array of courses available online, including Old Testament literature, contemporary world history, college algebra, introduction to church history, and many more. It’s a great tool for the working adult on a time-crunch, and that’s exactly who it’s designed for.

However, not everyone can afford or find the time for a good college education. That’s why Oakland City University is one of over a thousand participants in the United States government’s TRiO program. TRiO allows students to attend college who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, either because of their socio-economic status or because of a physical or mental disability. It’s all part of Oakland City University’s outreach mission, and so far it has been very successful.

The Oakland City TRiO program is called “Upward Bound”. It is a high school college preparatory program that develops skills and attitudes needed for success in post-secondary education. The program works largely with low-income high schools (unfortunately, no Indianapolis high schools), and trains them for college through year-round tutoring, weekly workshops in which lecturers discuss how to apply and be admitted to college, summer courses and camps, and individual college advising meetings. So far, the program has been working; 82% of Upward Bound students went on to attend and graduate from a post-secondary institution, and they were four times more likely to earn a degree than similar students who hadn’t participated in the program.


In addition to the bevy of great academic programs at Oakland City University, the school also has a strong athletic presence. The OCU Mighty Oaks (not related to the Indiana State University Sycamores) play NCAA Division II and NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) Division I sports. They are an independent athletic organization, meaning they don’t belong to any particular conference. However, they have played such schools as Butler University, the University of Evansville, Urbana University, and Temple Baptist. The Oakland City University Mighty Oaks consist of 21 varsity sports teams, including baseball, tennis, cross country, and soccer.

The Mighty Oaks baseball team advanced to the NCCAA National Tournament in the 2008-2009 season, though they only went 1-2 in the tournament. During the regular season, the baseball team played some great teams, including a few pillars of the Indianapolis sports community. The Mighty Oaks faced off against the University of Indianapolis, the northwest branch of Indiana University, Saint Joseph’s College, the University of Southern Indiana, and St. Catharine University. They were seeded 8th in the national tournament and finished the season with a 11-29 record.

The College on the Hill

All in all, Oakland City University is a small town college with big time aspirations. It’s located within short traveling distance of many great Midwest cities, its campus is chock-full of interesting activities put on by students and administrators alike, and there is a strong sense of community at the school. The university is founded on General Baptist principles, so it seeks to develop a close-knit society for people of all walks of life. In addition to the main campus, the three regional campuses also provide accelerated adult education. The school offers a bevy of academic opportunities spread out through five different departments, and even gives assistance to high school students who otherwise wouldn’t make it to college. The former “college on the hill” has come a long way since its inception in 1891, and it doesn’t look as though it’s going to stop growing any time soon.

For more information on Oakland City University, including a comprehensive course catalog and event dates, please visit their homepage.

Oakland City University Campus Locations

Oakland City University – Main Campus
138 N Lucretia St
Oakland City, IN 47660
Phone: 812.749.4781
Toll Free: 800.737.5125

Oakland City University – Bedford Center
405 I St
Bedford, IN 47421
Phone: 812.279.8126 or 812.855.4138
Toll Free: 877.707.6282
Fax: 812.279.6210

Oakland City University – Evansville Center
110 S Green River Rd
Evansville, IN 47715
800.559.9212 or 812.479.6808

Oakland City University – Indianapolis Center
6330 E 75th St
Suite 136
Indianapolis, IN 46250

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