Maharishi Vedic City - incorporated four years ago by followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - hopes to open a city university this fall, town officials said.
The university will offer classes advancing town principles promoting healthful living and world peace. Students will take courses in preventive medicine and meditation, organic agriculture, and the town's style of architecture.
A group is developing curriculum and acquiring a site for the campus in the town of 200, said Maureen Wynne , the city attorney and one of the university organizers. The university plans to seek accreditation from the same group that endorses most universities in Iowa, she said.
"We think it will be a major attraction for people of all age groups to move here," Wynne said. "We see more and more that in a community, people want to keep their minds lively, and this would be a great community where they could do that."
Maharishi Vedic City University - established under a city ordinance last year - will become Iowa's only city-run four-year college.
Nationally, city colleges are a dying breed, said Michael Baer, senior vice president at the American Council on Education. None has been established in recent memory, he said.
Then again, Maharishi Vedic City is a bit out of the ordinary.
Followers of the Transcendental Meditation movement came to Fairfield in the mid-1970s to establish a university on the old Parsons College campus.
In 2001, meditators founded their own city northwest of town, designating Sanskrit as the official city language and outlawing the sale of nonorganic food. All buildings face east according to ancient laws of architecture.
Because state law does not recognize city universities, a bill is working its way through the Iowa Legislature that would exempt the university from registering with the Iowa secretary of state's office, a requirement for many institutions that are neither state-supported nor private.
Classes are expected to be offered this fall in existing town buildings, Wynne said. Ultimately, organizers hope the college will educate thousands on a campus of about 400 acres, she said.
The new school will complement degrees offered at nearby Maharishi University of Management - a private institution - but not duplicate them, she said.