Enrollment has increased 70.6 percent since 1990, from 135,000 to 230,000, at the 102 evangelical schools belonging to the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, according to a report by USA Today Dec. 14.
During the same period, enrollments at public colleges increased by 12.8 percent, and at private colleges the increase was 28 percent.
Alexander Astin, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, said the growth marks a turnaround from the 1960s and ’70s when religious colleges struggled to attract students. About 120 religious colleges closed between 1960 and 1979, USA Today said.
The article suggested students are drawn to the smaller, Christian schools because the large size of many public universities makes it more difficult to develop deep, meaningful relationships with peers. Also, religious students often prefer to study in an environment where their beliefs will be respected rather than criticized or challenged.
“There is a sense that the people who dominate the faculties at secular universities do have an antipathy toward traditional religion,” Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of “God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America,” told USA Today. “It’s nice for [students] to go to a place where they don’t have to always be defending their beliefs.”
USA Today mentioned Cedarville University, a Christian school in Cedarville, Ohio, affiliated with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. Richard Chewning of Siloam Springs, Ark., is paying more in tuition than he would for a secular school so that his granddaughter can attend Cedarville.
“The worst form of destruction for a younger person’s worldview is to take it into an environment where it is laughed at and ridiculed,” Chewning, a retired Baylor University ethicist, told USA Today. An 18-year-old is “like a hot-house tomato. If you stick them in a humanistically oriented university, they’re going to get scorched rather than watered.”