Everyone who is interested in higher Christian education, whether a parent or an employee of an evangelical college, ought to read Allen C. Guelzo’s “Course Corrections: Whither the Evangelical Colleges?” in Touchstone.
Guelzo focuses upon institutions that make up the Council of Christian Colleges and universities. His article addresses the same issues that his earlier study found.
Five years ago, I surveyed the overall state of Evangelical Christian higher education in the United States, and came away impressed by three ominous developments:
· That the financial health of Evangelical colleges was eroding even in the midst of record good times for higher-education funding;
· That the need to survive in this environment was driving Evangelical colleges to recruit ever-downwards on the scale of qualified students, simply in pursuit of warm, tuition-paying bodies, and ever-upwards in pursuit of managerial presidents; and
· That the faculties of Evangelical colleges were sitting surprisingly loose beside the tenets that were inscribed in their employers’ faith-statements.
When I called attention to these things, the response I got included a few amen’s and a few injured rationalizations for the incidents I’d cited. But mostly they elicited a frozen silence, the kind you hear when the divorced father shows up at his kiddies’ birthday party.
His candid assessment indicates that evangelical colleges are in trouble for many reasons. He addresses such issues as admission requirements, alumni giving (or lack thereof), SAT/ACT comparisons with non-evangelical private colleges, funding problems, escalating costs, “Rolodex Presidents,” guild-minded faculty, etc. The principal problem of major concern that Guelzo finds across the spectrum of evangelical colleges and universities is widespread failure among leaders and faculty to uphold the true mission of the evangelical college. Guelzo concludes, “It comes as no shock to discover that secular universities can find no cultural consensus, since they abandoned that a long time ago; and it is not news, since Ex Corde Ecclesia, that Catholic colleges and universities are far from being of one mind on their identity. But it will mean the end of yet another important cultural alternative if Evangelical colleges, one by one, go down—or worse, pull themselves down, because their leaders and their faculties could not make up their minds what core business they were in, and sat in silence.”