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18 Christian colleges closed since start of Covid-19

Eighteen Christian colleges have closed permanently or have been forced to merge since the start of the pandemic, a recent report from Higher Ed Dive found.

Schools shuttering their doors include Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Church of Christ and Independent institutions. Many schools, like Iowa Wesleyan University, attribute their struggles to shifting enrollment trends, inflation, decline in giving and the reluctance of state governments to share federal funds equally with private schools.

For St. Louis Christian College in Missouri, merging with another college did not save it. The school attributed problems related to unrest in nearby Ferguson, Missouri and strict Covid restrictions.

Amanda Staggenborg, chief communications officer for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, said that both secular and religious institutions have experienced enrollment declines. She cited multiple reasons for the decline, including declining birth rates, a decrease in the number of students graduating high school and fewer high school graduates seeking a higher education

She pointed to a report last updated in May 2022 by the National Center for Education Statistics, which found that total undergraduate enrollment at undergraduate institutions had decreased by 9 percent between 2009 and 2020.

Staggenborg also cited the 2020 study titled “Diversity and distance learning: An exploratory study of the relationships between online and minority enrollment at private nonprofit Christian colleges,” which addressed the likely reasons behind the higher education enrollment decline. According to that study, private nonprofit colleges feel the impact of declining enrollment of students ages 18 to 24 more strongly than larger public universities with more-robust academic options.

“Declining birth rates, changing national demographics, competition among colleges and a strong economy have resulted in a decline in the number of new high school graduates seeking a traditional residential college experience,” the study said.

Staggenborg believes Christian universities can boost enrollment by promoting their values and showing people what they have to gain by attending a faith-based institution over a secular one.

“There is no better time to communicate the value of Christian higher education,” she said. “Faith is rooted in Christian higher education, where a student is called to use God-given talents and gifts combined with the learned skills in that university setting to live out that calling or vocation.”

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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