Enrollment Trends of Christian Colleges and Universities in Last 30 years

As overall college enrollment declines for a sixth straight year, Christian colleges and universities have continued pitching potential students with a faith-based education that aligns with their professional goals and personal values. Public institutions and non-faith-based private schools are increasingly becoming known for their hostility toward biblical principles, and many Christian students are gravitating toward a college experience that equips them with a foundation for their faith, whether they are preparing for ministry or the marketplace.

Many of the trends in higher education as a whole also impact Christian universities, including rising tuition rates and the shift toward online education. Shifts in higher education are not the only changes in society Christian colleges and universities must understand. Because of their unique offering of a faith-based education, the schools must also observe the role religion plays in the lives of young people and how it will impact their decision. Pew Research Center reported that in 2014 “only about four-in-ten Millennials [said] religion is very important in their lives,” fewer than any previous generation dating back to the Greatest Generation.

As the youngest Millennials move toward finishing their college years, the next generational cohort for Christian universities to focus on is Generation Z, those born between 1999 and 2015. Research by Barna indicates 75 percent of Boomers are Protestant or Catholic, whereas only 59 percent of those who are ages 13 to 18 identify as such. Furthermore, atheism is on the rise, as “the percentage of teens who identify as such is double that of the general population,” Barna writes.

These economic, religious, and cultural changes in society have led to new enrollment patterns in Christian higher education. Here are three trends schools must take note of in order to best recruit and serve incoming students and provide with the knowledge and faith needed to make an impact with their profession.

Large Christian schools are increasing enrollment

One key decision for students in the college selection process is school size. While small, mid-sized, and large schools all offer their own unique experiences, U.S. News & World Report indicates many students are opting for large Christian colleges.

For those who are unsure which program of study to choose their first semester, attending a large school usually provides more options. While faith-based institutions offer religious education in the form of Bible classes, most also offer majors for the marketplace, such as business, kinesiology, or computer science. This gives students who attend larger Christian schools the ability to select from dozens or even hundreds of programs while also integrating their faith.

(PHOTO: BIOLA)Biola University dedicates its new Talbot School of Theology Building on Oct. 14, 2011.

For example, Biola University in La Mirada, California, home to more than 4,000 students, has more than 150 programs. Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee offers 129 programs to its more than 5,000 students.

The U.S. Department of Education determined in a study released in 2017 that for students beginning postsecondary education in 2011-12, about one third of students earning


bachelor’s degrees changed their majors at least once. The volume and diversity of programs fits well for undecided students, who may want a range of options to choose from should they decide against their original pick.

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Source: Christian Post