Why choose a Christian college? The impact of college choice
Never before has college choice wielded more power to forever mold, shape and impact the trajectory of a young person’s life. Each year, conscientious Christian parents and their high school seniors labor through the process of choosing the right college. With so many factors to consider, it can feel overwhelming. This is a critical crossroad. Parents have invested eighteen years into educating their children, working hard to help them develop their values, and worldview in hopes they have made the Christian faith their own. Parents often wait with baited breath, praying their investment will pay off as the young adult faces the tremendous challenges of popular culture. The right college choice will be unique to each student. There are many reasons why choosing a college with a Christian worldview can become a tremendous resource in helping Christian families reach their goals by offering a protected bridge to launch their students into life. Before you make a college choice, here are four important points to consider:
- Eighteen is not the magic age of maturity
It is essential to consider a students’ spiritual maturity level before making the right college choice. Eighteen is no magic number. With a cautious eye on cultural trends, attentive parents know they have to take seriously the task of choosing the right college. Professors also know young students are highly impressionable, and take seriously their mission to impact the world by influencing and molding the way students view the world. Wise parents recognize not every student is prepared to face the challenges of a secular college with professors who are critical of Christianity, and remain firm in their faith. A Christian college can provide a much safer choice than a secular college. The key is knowing your student’s maturity level.
- We need to fight the exodus of churched youth
We have been overloaded with statistics that reinforce the need for parents to take seriously their task in helping choose the right college. As 70-75% of churched youth are reported as leaving the church right after high school.1 This indicates that three out of every four students seem to be walking away from practicing their faith, when faced with cultural and life challenges that interrupt their spiritual development before they are mature enough to handle it.
Many theories circulate regarding the high attrition rate of our churched youth. Those who study the trends list educational choices and preparation as key reasons for the departure. Many students attended public schools for 12 years, where their faith was continually challenged and discouraged by peers and their teachers. Some churches have consistently separated students into para-churches, meaning they rarely attended a “main worship service” with their families. After graduation, some have observed the awkward transition to the “main worship service” is often interrupted by attending college far away. For many reasons, including transportation, students seem to resistant looking for a church near their college. Thus, the spiritual growth habit of attending church is lost to them. Other churches seem to emphasize exciting social activities more than effectively discipling students in what they believe and why.
Josh McDowell reports, “seventy percent (70%) of today’s generation (both churched and unchurched) youth claim that absolute truth does not exist, and all truth is relative.”1 Whether the cause is public education, media or culture, relativism has replaced theism in the hearts and minds of much of our youth. Alan Bloom states that regardless of their students’ religious backgrounds, “there is one thing that a professor can be sure of: almost every student…[will be] unified only in their relativism.”2 “The relativistic mindset has given us permission to play God, and determine what is best, right, and not best for us, quite apart from any external authority”2 When students finish college, removed four years or more from the spiritual habits of their youth, some argue that church no longer seems relevant. Wherever fingers are pointed, nobody can argue against the fact that there are more challenges and social pressures that encourage young adults to question their need for Church, the existence of God, and the infallibility of His Word.
Secular colleges and universities have transformed dramatically over this past century. Regardless of what causes the the exodus of our young adults, one study revealed that “72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative.”3 As no professor is without a bias, their ideologies will be promoted in the lecture hall, as they persuasively sway the students to see the world as they do. On many college campuses, this can threaten the goals of Christian parents.
Parents often don’t even realize they are paying for the atheism that is undermining their ability to pass their faith and values on to their children. They may take their kids to church on Sundays, weekly youth group, and yearly camps. But many kids spend more waking hours in a public classroom than they spend at church or home. Then parents unwittingly turn over a huge chunk of their life savings over to colleges to have their children educated by “an angry tribe of opinionated professors” hostile to their faith and values.4 A majority of these secular colleges are dedicated to godless social transformation, and their professors take every opportunity to declare like a high-pitched dental drill, that
“Christianity is judgmental and intolerant.”
“Jesus was just a man who died.”
“The Bible is mythology.”
“Faith is a crutch.”
“Morality is different for different people.” and
“Everyone must find their own truth.” 4
Such colleges thrive on the fact that parents have no clue there is a very high chance their ‘enlightened’ students will return home to announce, “Well, Mom and Dad, while that might be your faith and values, it is no longer mine.” Dr. J. Budziszewski, a college professor at the University of Texas, writes about the bias secular university professors hold against Christianity, saying “college is a war zone for young believers who are not prepared for the battle of their faith.” 4 In his assessment, this is why we are seeing “an alarming number of young Christians walk away from their faith by the time they finish college.” Christian colleges have a unique opportunity to step in the gap and become an essential tool in reducing the exodus of our youth as they transition into adulthood..
- Christian Colleges can provide more opportunity for true discipleship
Our youth represent our future. The statistics indicate our traditional efforts as parents and churches in making disciples of our children are not as effective as they should be in this culture. While every person must exercise their free will, and make their own commitment to follow God and His ways, we need to provide solid tools to help reverse the trends. Students without the proper tools to respond to intellectual challenges to their faith students can become easy prey to anti-theistic ideologies. It is important that we do all we can to help them become confident in their faith. Students need guidance and encouragement to continue in church fellowship, connect with God, tools to help them learn the truth, and make the faith their own. It is logical to assume that students will be less likely to walk away from their faith if they have a strong foundation in understanding what Christians believe and why. Providing adequate tools to disciple our children will prepare them to stay strong in their faith while living in the real world. The wrong college will definitely impact a students’ worldview, faith, ability to complete college, and plans for the future. However, Christian colleges that hold to the essentials of our faith, offering plenty of opportunities for fellowship and discipleship, can be a great resource in helping to pass our faith to the next generation.
Campus Apologetics Ministries are becoming an increasingly popular tool to help high school and college students understand what Christians believe and why, and respond to cultural challenges to their faith. Summit Ministries offers an affordable, life transforming worldviews summer camp to help high school and college students. Focus on the Family provides the DVD series “The Truth Project,” which is one of many incredible courses available which churches can use to help train their students in what they believe and why. Ratio Christi, along is one of the fastest growing campus ministries in the U.S. and abroad. Their new high school program, Ratio Christi College Prep (RCCP), is quickly growing as well. Choosing a Christian college sound in doctrine and standards and taking advantage of these support tools can potentially insulate students a little while longer, allowing them to mature in their faith, before they fully engage life in the real world.
- Christian Colleges may not be as expensive as you think
Many parents gasp at the numbers and wonder how it will be possible to afford a college education for their students. The total sticker prices for the state colleges can ranges roughly between $20,000 to $35,000 a year, including room and board.5 Christian colleges can range from $24,000 to $50,000 per year, including room and board.5 However, most families do not realize that private colleges often provide more generous scholarships in their financial aid than state colleges to students who promise to be a great fit on their campus. This can level the playing field between state and private colleges.
What does this mean to you? Your price tag for a Christian college will often be less than the sticker price. The better the student, the greater potential of lowering the price. High school performance translates into money in your pocket. There are many programs and incentives that private colleges offer which make this possible.
Many parents are so concerned about the cost of college that they have not even considered a private Christian college, assuming it will break their budget. One discouraged pastor thought his daughter would have to attend a local state college, which meant five to seven years to complete the degree at this college, since the classes were so impacted. (This is a common problem at state colleges.) After calculating the cost of the additional years, and taking advantage of creative options Christian college provide to reduce the cost, which included generous scholarships, this conscientious father was elated to discover it would cost less send his daughter to the Christian college than sending her to the state college.
Over the years in counseling Christian families on career and college, I have found many parents become pleasantly surprised to discover that if the plan ahead, choosing the right Christian college can sometimes be less expensive than they had ever imagined. A private college’s sticker price can be reduced by tens of thousands of dollars, simply by qualifying for campus-based scholarships, engaging in a variety of on-campus and community service programs, taking advantage of early application incentives and more.
There is very limited availability of campus scholarships at state schools. While they do have incentives for low income students, the rising costs of state schools over the past few years is requiring average families to pay more and more out of pocket costs. Impacted programs at state schools require students attend longer to complete their degrees, driving the cost higher each year they attend, while forcing impressionable students to try to live their faith in an environment intolerant to their beliefs and values. Statistics show that most students will find it difficult to make it through without walking away from their faith.
Many wonder how it is possible that private colleges can cut their costs so much for the right students. Unlike government owned state schools, private Christian colleges have endowment programs from people donating funds to the college or university over the years. The older the college, sometimes the larger the endowment programs will be. These programs give colleges the freedom to create incentives to reduce the cost of attendance, insuring a student completes their degree and enters the work force in four years. Money and time are saved as the college journey doesn’t need to last any longer than necessary before the student is launched into the work force. This allows families the opportunity to nurture their student’s faith a few more years, and students have freedom to learn truth about all sides of the important issues, while discussing ideas and worldviews in a faith-based environment. Families have the opportunity to let their student mature spiritually just a little while longer, instead of gambling with their souls before they are ready. So, open your options by applying to a Christian college. Even if it costs just a bit more than a state college, the return on investment in this life and throughout eternity may be worth every cent.
— by Mindy Chenault
Chenault is a freelance writer specializing in Christian education. Her experience has included working as a high school teacher for 30 years, a Home School Co-op Coordinator, and a College Planner. She currently assists her husband, Christian apologist and author, Ross Chenault, in directing Ratio Christi Ministries, a campus apologetics ministry at SDSU, and provides personality and career testing services to help students with develop their unique career, college and life goals through Life Design Compass. She may be contacted by emailing MindyChenault@gmail.com.
- The Barna Group. (2011). Most Twenty Somethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years – Barna Group. Retrieved from http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/16-teensnext-gen/147-most-twentysomethings-put-christianity-on-the-shelf-following-spiritually-active-teen-years\
- Stowell, J. M., & Stowell, J. M. (1997). Shepherding the Church: effective spiritual leadership in a changing culture. Chicago: Moody Press.
- The Washington Post. (2005). College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds (washingtonpost.com). Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8427-2005Mar28.html
- D’Souza, D. (2007). What’s so great about Christianity. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub.
- What’s the Price Tag for a College Education? Retrieved September 14, 2015, from http://www.collegedata.com/cs/content/content_payarticle_tmpl.jhtml?articleid=10064
- Resources: Essays – Students Abandoning the Faith – Summit Ministries. Retrieved September 14, 2015, from http://www.summit.org/resources/essays/students-abandoning-the-faith/
- The Truth Project. Retrieved September 14, 2015, from http://www.thetruthproject.org/
- Fully Equipped. Fully Engaged. Retrieved September 14, 2015, from http://ratiochristi.org/