Advice about Christian colleges from a former VP of one

It’s certainly understandable that college-bound young people moving away from the settings in which they were raised would value college settings that reflect their own current comfort zones. And it’s also understandable that young people with strong commitments to their faiths would assume that they would grow more in their faith at a Christian college than at a secular one. But when your college experience is complete and you become a young adult who has been impacted by that experience, the greatest value that you will have received will be your exposure to the widest possible range of human difference. The degree to which you will be perceived as a broadly-educated person will be the variety of different vantage points from which you can understand the world and society.

I spent seven years as a VP at a Christian college and 23 years as a VP at a state university. The campus ministries at the state university were among the largest and most active student organizations on campus. Christian students who sought out religious fellowship at the state university found at least as rich a faith experience as did the students at the Christian college, and many went on to faith-related professions after college. But the student body at the Christian college - indeed, at most Christian colleges - was far less diverse in backgrounds, philosophies, and outlooks than the students who attend non-denominational colleges and universities. And many of the students at the Christian college left with skewed visions of what the wider world considers appropriate and valuable, only to find that they were subsequently viewed by a their post-college colleagues as being limited in their global citizenship.

If you are determined to consider attending a Christian college, closely evaluate how inclusive and welcoming of diverse viewpoints each one may be. For instance, Georgetown University - one of the world’s leading Catholic institutions - has not only Catholic priests available to their student body, but Protestant chaplains and a Muslim imam as well. If you think that having access to people of differing faiths on your college campus will be of no utility to you, you will be forfeiting one of the great learning and growth experiences that your life may afford you. Understanding human difference will be one of the great assets that you will eventually be able to bring to your career. For example, if you see that a college is unaccepting of LGBT students, you should rule that school out. It is functioning within a system of values that is entirely contrary to that of the 21st century Western world, possibly because it has appointed wealthy, older people to its Board of Trustees and cannot afford to risk offending them since their financial contributions are essential to the institutional budget. In evaluating colleges, it will be wise for you to research the balance of funds that the school has in their financial endowment. Colleges and universities build endowments in order to be able to survive lean times, such as those created by a downturn in the number of HS graduates or a pandemic (both of which are currently in effect). In order to be able to hold fast to institutional values and to not sell out to the demands of a wealthy patron (or simply, to be able to keep from going out of business over the long haul), a private college will need to have an endowment in the hundreds of millions of dollars. (A public university generally does not need as large an endowment because its financial viability is bolstered by the resources of its state.)

Finally, the 21st century world assesses truth by generating hypotheses, objectively testing those hypotheses, and arriving at conclusions that are supported by the evidence. Some religiously-affiliated colleges are intolerant of points of view that differ from the pre-determined aspects of what they claim to be true. They are insistent that faculty and students cherry-pick only the evidence that supports those pre-determined conclusions and ignore anything to the contrary. This is essentially the equivalent of shooting arrows into a blank wall and then walking up and painting bulls-eyes around them. The 21st-century world does not function in that way, and an attempt by a college to train you to do so amounts to malpractice. Be open-minded and willing to consider any new learnings that your college experience affords you. Your faith should be enlightened enough and open enough to accommodate those new insights without demanding that you close your mind to them. Good luck and God bless.

Great post.

Very well written and you articulated what our family has felt and believed.

Excellent post, thanks for your insight!

Thank you for the post.

Thank you, sir. Would you be willing to share your opinion on which Christian colleges do a good job in regard to inclusivity and welcoming diverse viewpoints, not just in their declaration but also in practice?

@ArtsyKidDad

I know I’m not the writer, but in terms of California colleges, I’d look at Santa Clara University, University of San Francisco, and USD.

great post! it made me think a lot which kinda hurt lol.

i wonder what your thoughts are on the ‘all comers’ policy especially in light of this amicus by the Gays and Lesbians for individual liberty filed on behalf of the Christian Legal Society, CLS, in CLS v Martinez? do you believe this will undo many of the progresses minority groups have enjoyed?

here is the link https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/preview/publiced_preview_briefs_pdfs_09_10_08_1371_PetitionerAmCuGLIL.pdf

i believe, a fortiori, that colleges, especially private ones, should be able to exclude students who do not adhere to the core principles that make up and preserve the institution. op, you say that diversity is important. what kind of diversity would exist if people of diverse backgrounds and committed faiths and beliefs cannot freely associate and express their viewpoint? i believe society as a whole benefits from minority viewpoints, whether it is from the LGBTQ community or the evangelical orthodox community.

I would take much of what @gadad wrote with a grain of salt as many (not all) who have been in academic administration for that long tend to be removed from the “real world.”

In the business world, you will ultimately be judged by the value you bring to the company (NOT the name on a diploma, your perceived religious views, or perceived views on various social/political issues.).

Throughout the years, I’ve had colleagues who attended “Christian” colleges/universities, and they performed just as well as those who attended secular ones. Many of the best students during my graduate program days attended religious universities.

So while I agree that a religious or Christian college may not be the “best” option for perhaps most students, for the right student it can be a great option and set you up well for your goals.

Amazing post! Thanks for the info!