In Wake of Economic Crisis, Christian Colleges are Closing

According to an Associated Press article by Justin Pope, the economic crisis has played a major role in the closings of several Christian colleges:

Late last month, [Cascade College,] the small Christian college with just 280 students and $4 million in debt announced it would have to shut down at the end of the current academic year.

“Our hearts would have said we would like to continue trying,” said Cascade President Bill Goad, somberly adding he never imagined his duties would include shutting the school down. But on top of their long-term challenges, “small colleges like Cascade just don’t have the slack to survive those kinds of impacts,” he said.

In addition to Cascade, another Christian institution, Taylor University, announced last month it would close the undergraduate program at a branch campus in Fort Wayne, Ind., while Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, Minn. announced plans to close.

And on Wednesday, Vennard College, a Christian school in Iowa that was down to about 80 students, announced it would close at the end of the current semester — two years shy of its 100th birthday.

If more college closing announcements come, it would likely be next semester, or next fall, when schools find out how many of their students don’t return.

There are about 4,400 colleges in the United States, and the American Council on Education has records show that only four closed in 2007.

I’ll admit I’m surprised to see that the small Christian schools are shutting down. They may have only a handful of students, but I was always under the impression that those kinds of schools were funded by a number of wealthy Christians who could protect the schools from exactly these problems.

It may be a good thing to have these students relocate. Not all of them will go to another Christian college, and I think it’ll be good for the others to have to adjust to living/working/studying in “normal society.”

College is the perfect time to expand your mind and challenge your own views. You can’t do that if you’re constantly surrounded by people who agree with you.

(Thanks to tokenadult for the link!)

  • http://www.fabulouslyinthecity.com Chris (in Columbus)

    My sister went to Washington Bible College and then to Liberty University for her Master’s. While I respect and admire the hard work she did for her degrees, I can’t compare it to my education at The Ohio State University. (I’m still here, in my senior year).

    Here I’ve been introduced to SO many different types of people and professors, and the energy on a campus with 52,000 students is just palpable. I can see how I’ve grown–from my language to how I make decisions to how I view life. OSU really helped me in that, and it happened because of the diversity.

    I didn’t see that in my sister. She seems like the same girl she was when she started at these colleges. Luckily she’s a great girl who probably best exemplifies how Christ would have wanted his followers to act–she treats others with kindness, helps the poor and the needy, etc. I think the world of her.

    But I’m so curious what she would be like if she had gone to a “secular” school, as they call it. Would she still be the same girl? Or maybe would it have strengthened her faith?

  • http://leann28.wordpress.com LeAnn

    I am only commenting as someone that attended a small, Christian school for college and only about my college. Even though my school was associated with the NC Baptists, not every person that went to that school or taught there, was a Christian. I agree that you are more likely to be exposed to a wider and more diverse population at a so-called “secular” school. I’m just saying that not everyone at a so-called “Christian” school professes that faith. Also, the tuition at my college was more expensive than the state schools and this was because they did not receive the federal funding that state schools receive (separation of church and state). There are people that do donate significant amounts of money to my school, but mostly to build new buildings and have them named after themselves (apparently that’s the honor you get for donating $$). The money donated does not go to the general funding of the school so it doesn’t pay for upkeep, salaries, etc. At least that was at my college.

  • Jasen777

    As said above, most small private schools (not just Christian ones) are kept going by student tuition. The tuition is often only able to be met by extensive student loans taken out by the students and/or parents.

    If people are less willing to loan money in this economic environment, it could be a big problem for small private schools.

  • http://oxfordir.org.uk Brett

    The Christian college I attended (and I don’t think this is entirely atypical) was very tuition- and donor-dependent and has never developed an endowment sizable enough to give it a huge buffer, which is what a number of secular private colleges have done.

    Even the wealthy Christians Hemant mentions are less likely to give in this sort of environment, and parents may be less likely to help pay for their kids’ school (a lot of my peers were at my college because their parents would pay the difference between it and a state school).

  • http://mylifeintheblender.wordpress.com Laura

    “College is the perfect time to expand your mind and challenge your own views. You can’t do that if you’re constantly surrounded by people who agree with you.”

    Actually, small Christian college is what made me start questioning my beliefs. Learning more about them is what made me realize how little sense they made. Most of the Christians I know who went to public universities huddled with the other students at the BSU and tuned everyone else out. You can’t do that if you are at a Christian school and it is other Christians causing you to question. Bart Eherman and [I forgot her name] from Wheaton featured on here not too long ago are 2 more examples of those who questioned their beliefs at conservative schools.

    What turned out to be annoying is that I changed my beliefs while others decided to “have faith.” I left that school with about 2 friends. Now that I am working on another degree at another school, I love the diversity! I made more friends my first semester than I made in 8 there. So I both agree and disagree with that statement. The lack of diversity IS annoying, but you can question your beliefs anywhere.

  • Richard Wade’s Evil Twin

    It will be financially difficult for Christian college students to start attending secular colleges. They’ll have to buy more than one book. ;)

  • Larry Huffman

    I am not too surprised by this. Yes, some christian colleges are funded by large churches and wealthy congregation members. Colleges like Pepperdine, BYU, Oral Robert and Liberty. However, many of these small christian schools are not so well planned.

    Often they are founded to allow masses of homeschoolers a place to attend (homeschoolers who’s parents taught 4 subjects based on the bible and science class was a study into the Ark). Those kids cannot even attend a junior college thanks to their parents.

    Sometimes they are relatively small congregations or church populations, too small to adequately support a university. They are founded to keep certain things out, such as science and truth. But the congregations should not have attempted such an endeavor in the first place.

    For a small school to be $4 million in debt…well, I have to guess that the best business decisions were not made along the way to begin with. Maybe when the economy was good there were loans etc to keep them afloat, but now the light is shining on their solvency and it is revealed they are not. They are run by religious people, and in many cases religious people who are quite delusional in their views. It is not surprising that they cannot run such a business properly.

    And the coup de gras: religion is loosing young people right and left. Many of these schools may simply be failing because young people do not want to go and spend 4+ years in church. They want to go out and learn about life and the world. Aside from the ones completely isolated and censored from the world, most kids will see right through the blatant attempt to censor them. It is one thing to keep information from small kids, but trying to do so to a 19 year old can backfire, especially in this information age, since kids are better at getting information than most older people. They are adults and will demand that respect…the respect to allow them to chose their own way. These colleges, in many cases, are obviously set up to be a shelter from the world. Kids see that…and more and more will not tolerate that.

    So the bottom line may be that they are not just failing because of the economy. The bad economy is most likely just bringing some facts to light. The product is just not as in demand as before. Because of that the tuition gets higher and higher…and the students and parents alike will then send their kids to someplace less expensive, and ultimately more credible.

    I have a friend who went to a local church college that is one of these small schools. He wanted to transfer to the Cal State system and was told most of his credits didn’t transfer. All of his time, and it meant little to anyone. The degree was a joke. Even the wording on the degree that he had hanging up was a bit whacko and religious. He was faced with heading back tot hat school for a masters, or to start all over. he chose the latter, as his choice of master degree programs was severely limited by his small religious school.

    We have to accept the fact that maybe this is more indicitive of the product offered not being as in demand.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    College is the perfect time to expand your mind and challenge your own views. You can’t do that if you’re constantly surrounded by people who agree with you.

    I think Laura is right, it all depends on the individual. If you have a reactive, questioning personality like me, then you are bound to react in the opposite direction of whatever the surrounding culture is. I went to a conservative Christian college, and my reaction against that pushed me to become more progressive and open-minded. I honestly believe however that if I had gone to a more liberal state school there is a very good chance I would have reacted against that and become more conservative and dogmatic in my Christian worldview as a result. (I’ve had several friends for whom that is exactly what happened.) For that reason I am very glad that I went to a Christian college.

  • Miko

    College is the perfect time to expand your mind and challenge your own views. You can’t do that if you’re constantly surrounded by people who agree with you.

    True, but it’s also the time when you’re fully expected to make decisions for yourself, even if that decision is to insulate yourself in a Christian college. After all, musicians flock to schools like Julliard because they provide something most other schools lack. If some people think that a Christian college will give them what they’re looking for, they should certainly be free to choose that path.

  • Jen

    Oooh, Chris, have any good stories about Liberty University? Sometimes when I am bored, I look at the websites of conservative (and slightly unhinged) Christian colleges, where the rules include demerits for watching R-rated movies or wearing pants and being a lady. Liberty U first came to my attention (and my web-surfing habit) when I got a postcard in the mail during my college search and there was some sort of “apply to this school and maybe win a truck!” promotion that made me incredibly suspicious that the school was some sort of practical joke. I am dying for some dirt on them.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Mike Clawson has a good point for those that share his contrarian personality type (as I do). After spending time reading comments here at the Friendly Atheist, I find myself more driven to go to church. And then after attending church, I find myself driven to serf to the Friendly Atheist site :) A vicious circle.

  • http://www.fabulouslyinthecity.com Chris (in Columbus)

    Jen, the dirt I have on Liberty is NOTHING compared to the dirt on Bob Jones! THAT is the scary one. It was only like 20 years ago they removed the ban on interracial dating–not marriage, you couldn’t even DATE someone of another race.

    I know that currently they still require all men to wear a tie to class and women to wear skirts. There is NO form of dancing whatsoever allowed on campus. You must get permission to leave campus, too. And, of course, the girls and guys must walk on separate sidewalks.

    If anyone is found drinking, having sex or smoking pot (much less any drugs), they are immediately expelled. I’m sure there is some sort of appeal process, but from what I’m told that’s the case. Even just going to a club or bar is enough to possibly have you suspended or even kicked out.

    CRAZY. I’m sure Liberty is just as bad, though. Most of the same rules apply–Bob Jones is just far more strict about it.

  • http://blog.crispen.org Rev. Bob

    I was wondering how many of these small colleges refused Federal funding because of Title XI, which as we all know requires same sex toilets and public lesbianism.

    Snark aside, unless a college is doing palpable harm, I think it’s a shame to see a college close.

  • Brett

    How do you define palpable harm?


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