The founders were motivated by a need for trained school teachers and college-level classical and science education. The timing of the idea was good, since interest in new colleges was high in midwestern towns. S.Z. Sharp (note yesterday's entry) was instrumental in establishing several institutions, and he was approached by Ohio Brethren to begin a canvas of Ohio towns that eventually led to the founding of the new college in Ashland.
The relatively friendly atmosphere in which Ashland College began its existence was disturbed early by disagreement within the church on a number of topics, one of which dealt with the training of ministers and the sponsoring of colleges. The turmoil created by the church schism of 1882 had calmed generally by 1888, and the Progressive Brethren were in control of Ashland College. They reincorporated the college, vesting control and ownership in a board of trustees to be self-perpetuating.
The trustees inherited a badly crippled institution burdened with debt and struggled for nine years to survive. There was a brief closing of the institution in 1897 and reopened in the autumn of 1898.
Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia