Students should look back on college with joy, but many are saddled with horrible debt that ruins their memories and harms the rest of their lives. What is to be done?
Few Christian colleges are flush. Most struggle to do a good work with few resources and less acclaim. The hard working professors are overworked and underpaid. Christian colleges face a hard task. They are in an industry that is in trouble and they are competing against tax subsidized behemoths. Everyone knows the system for undergrads is broken, but few can or will break with the pattern of state subsidy and regional accreditation put in place by the Greatest Generation.
As higher education faces a crisis point, there are three things Christian colleges can get right. If we do, then the great changes that are coming after the higher education bubble bursts will help and not harm us. Christian schools have followed and this is our chance to lead.
First, administration and co-curricular programs must be slashed or made a separate charge for students. We believe students demand all our treats, so let’s see if that is so when they see the cost. Do they wish over half their tuition to go outside the academic area?
Religious schools, even the larger ones, can double down on their Christian mission and message and let other schools continue to go down the path of becoming four year resorts. Communities can serve the poor and rich with excellence because our money will go to teachers. Excellence will not be an excuse for redlining in our admissions, directing our appeals only to “desirable” students. Eschewing racism and snobbery in service to all God’s children will require cutting costs. We have no more money to give to academic grifters who administrate without teaching or have little or no connection to the life of the academic community.
Second, smaller schools must take the focus off the campus and put it on the professors and students. Buildings and monuments do not educate, people do. We need to connect to local churches to find spiritual mothers and fathers to minister to our kids. Let’s have simple and beautiful facilities, but pay our teachers more. On the undergrad level, let’s aspire to see our best teachers make what our administrators have made in the past.
Let’s make sure no student has to finance an education based on debt to pay for fruitless competition with secular schools. Let’s be a group where people say: look how they love their students and each other.
Finally, religious schools need to do a better job regionally coordinating their offerings. Do we need five or six schools in a region offering struggling programs in the same fields? Competition can be good, friendly rivalry better, but in these darkening times all Christians should stand in solidarity. We must start recommending our sister schools where they would be a better fit for the particular student or professor.
The science fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft created a fictional University, Miskatonic University, where many horrors were studied and practiced. Too many students confuse their college experience, given the debt and the useless degrees, with a trip to Miskatonic.
Our Lord is a loving Savior who hates the chains of debt, invites us to reason with Him, and sets us free. We do not serve the Cthulu of this present educational age.