Is a Christian College Education Worth It?

Steve Henderson, in his compelling article entitled, "A Question of Price Versus Cost," challenges the reader to consider not just the price for going to a Christian college but also to consider the cost of not going. Decisions students make while they are in college can alter the trajectory of their future. Here are some highlights from the article:
  • Research plainly shows that most students are unprepared for the conflict of worldviews they will encounter at non-Christian colleges and universities. 
  • Numerous authors point to the significant transition that takes place in the college years. Teenagers enter this time still children in many ways. They leave as adults. They shift from parental control and dependence to self-control and more self-reliance. In addition, the college years are a time when core values from childhood are tested, sorted, and prioritized in ways that often will last a lifetime. This is also a time when people move from an imposed faith to an owned faith, one that is a foundation for their entire life structure.
  • This is a time that greatly shapes the adult he or she will become. What happens if this major metamorphosis takes place in a nonsupportive environment (at best) or a hostile one (at worst)? The results of nearly 25 years of research consistently reveal that those who do not attend a Christ-centered college will experience a decline in religious values, attitudes, and behaviors during college.
  • Despite some exceptions, the research clearly establishes that enrollment in selective, prestigious, non-religiously affiliated colleges (i.e., typical secular private colleges) or public colleges and universities correlates with significant decreases in religious affiliation and behavior, such as church attendance, praying, reading the Bible, and discussing religion. On the other hand, enrollment in church-related colleges of all types tends to support and strengthen the student's existing religious values and behaviors.
  • A recent press release on the ongoing National Study of College Students' Search for Meaning and Purpose offered some interesting information on students who are beginning their college years. While 79 percent of all freshmen believe in God, 69 percent pray, and 81 percent attend religious services at least occasionally, 57 percent question their religious beliefs, 52 percent disagree with their parents about religious matters and 65 percent feel distant from God. College students are asking deep questions about their faith. Unless they are at a Christian college, they may find themselves in an environment that is not conducive to providing supportive answers. Asking deep questions in such a situation can lead to confusion at best and, more likely, skepticism or outright rejection of family religious values.
  • A March 29, 2005, Washington Post article by Howard Kurtz, titled "Study Finds College Faculties a Most Liberal Lot," reports that most faculty at non-Christian colleges disdain Christianity, with 72 percent indicating they are liberal, 84 percent favoring abortion, and 67 percent indicating homosexuality is acceptable. In most cases, students reflect the values of college faculty they encounter in their upper division coursework. These faculty are typically the advisors and mentors of students. Certainly the above findings indicate that the answers and directions students receive from most faculty at these institutions will not be supportive of traditional morality and religious values.
    Dr. Lisa Diller provided an excellent perspective on the "worth-it" question when she gave the keynote address at Bryan's 2013 Undergraduate Research Conference. Her Christian perspective on the value of research and study is insightful:
  1. Because of Jesus, everything we study has value.  Jesus came to earth and gave this world value through becoming flesh, becoming part of our world.  So when we study anything, we are studying the world God made.  When I study, I grow in my appreciation of our Creator God and his complex world.
  2. All study can be an act of worship.  When I choose to ask God into my study, what I’m doing is a service for him.
  3. Attentiveness is what is crucial for research, and this is great for character formation—paying close attention is an act of love and requires discipline and is important in many aspects of life.
  4. Study and research requires one to be willing to be surprised.  If in my Christian walk I think I know it all and am not ready to learn something new, I miss a great deal of what God might be teaching me.
  5. I can choose to take pleasure in what is not immediately “useful”—finding out or rethinking what is useful.
  6. Humility is required—I may not be right, and I may have to change my mind.
Click here for more from her talk.

Click here to listen to her 27-minute podcast, "Reconciling the Life of the Mind with the Christian Walk."

Click here to read C. S. Lewis's "Learning in Wartime."