Evangelical colleges and universities across the US are reporting record numbers of enrolments for the new academic year. One of them is Asbury University in Kentucky which hosted a weeks-long campus revival at the start of the year. It recorded a 20% increase in enrolments to register the highest numbers in its history as well as the biggest year-on-year increase in new students since the university was founded in 1890.
Similar enrolment records are being set at private Christian tertiary educational institutions in Texas, Tennessee, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Arkansas, Alabama, Virginia and New York.
In the west, Arizona Christian University (ACU) President Len Munsil observed: “As one of the few higher education institutions in the nation that is conservative and committed to Biblical truth, we are finding more and more students and families are looking for what we are offering. For Christians who are tired of paying tuition to institutions where their faith is ridiculed, mocked, and canceled, ACU is becoming an increasingly popular alternative.”
Christianity Today reports that university and college administrators it spoke to said small, private, Christian schools are what many prospective students are looking for because “they place a high value on the very thing that evangelical institutions have always offered —discipleship, relationships, and a place to grow.”
Jennifer McChord, Asbury’s Vice President of Enrolment and Marketing told the Christian outlet: “It’s hard to be an 18-year-old student right now. When they see a place where they can have these meaningful, authentic connections where they are seen and known, it stands out. Because that’s what they’re craving.”
She also noted that in addition to partnering with Christian high schools, these colleges and universities have also been getting their message out through social media. “A lot of ads. A lot of videos. A lot of value content. We use the digital platforms to drive a student to engage with a counsellor and drive them to visit, where they can see,” Ms. McChord explained to Christianity Today.
It’s estimated that less than a third of graduates from Christian high schools go on to Christian colleges and universities, so high schools are signing agreements with tertiary institutions to guarantee graduates a place in much sought after programs in medicine, law, pharmacy and veterinary science.
Christian institutions are also widening their academic programs to have wider appeal while maintaining a faith-based ethos. Bethany College in West Virginia offers degrees in cybersecurity, digital marketing, and health care administration, as well as pre-physical therapy, pre-occupational therapy, and criminal justice. Others focus on professions in high demand like nursing.
Christianity Today cautions that the spike in enrolments is not confined to faith-based colleges with many public universities reporting a surge in new students. It’s being attributed to prospective students delaying their higher education while waiting for the pandemic to end.
Beck Taylor, president of Alabama’s Samford University told the outlet: “As horrible as the pandemic was, it probably increased interest in Christian higher education. Students who did not enjoy online education are looking for places to really invest in community.”
Jennifer McChord at Asbury agrees: “When we can lock arms and pour into these students who are suffering from social isolation, anxiety, and so many other challenges today, continually pointing them back to the Cross, pointing them to the Truth, and challenging them to find what God says about it, that is value. That’s what they’re looking for.”