Enrollment in Christian Colleges Surges While Students Flee Public Higher Ed Schools

Student enrollment in Christian colleges and universities has increased at the same time many are leaving public sector schools of higher education.

Public sector schools lost 1.1 percent of undergraduates last fall, resulting in a total two-year drop of 4.2 percent since 2020, reported the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Tate wrote at First Things last week that many traditional, faith-based colleges have seen record-breaking enrollments.

Thomas Aquinas College, established about 50 years ago in California, has opened its new campus in Massachusetts. The school features a curriculum that skips textbooks and lectures, opting instead, as Tate noted, for “student-led discussions of humanity’s greatest works.”

Benedictine College in Kansas had “record enrollment once again for Fall 2022 and recruiting is going strong for Fall 2023,” Stephen Johnson, the school’s director of marketing and communications, told The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF).

Hillsdale College is located in Michigan, home of the steepest statewide drop in college enrollment in the United States. Yet, Hillsdale’s applications jumped 53 percent in fall 2021.

Students cited two main reasons for seeking out Hillsdale: its personal choice COVID vaccine policy and its classical education curriculum, reported MLive.com.

Zach Miller, senior director of admissions at Hillsdale, explained students “see and they hear that what we’re doing here at Hillsdale College is good.”

“When they come here to visit and tour with their parents, they see that it’s civil, friendly, fun, and inspiring,” he said. “Studying at Hillsdale College is all those things and more, and, frankly, that’s what students want.”

Last fall, the University of Dallas (UD), a Catholic school that features a classical curriculum, touted its second-largest incoming class since its establishment 66 years ago.

The school noted 70 percent of the incoming students “describe themselves as Catholic (note that students are not required to list their religion).”

“We have doubled down on our core essence and purpose as an institution and made that well-known to prospective students,” Jonathan Sanford, UD president, told the DCNF.

“I think there’s a deep hunger in the souls of all individuals, but particularly in this generation, for a real education and real exposure to the timeless ideas and classical texts,” Sanford added, “as well as real exposure to how to build upon those timeless truths and classical texts in order to be innovative contributors to the renewal of culture.”

“This is just a sampling of institutions that have embraced a curriculum rooted in Western tradition—and the faith—only to discover their programs have become more relevant, not less so, to a younger generation,” Tate observed, pointing out as well that faith-based schools with both full enrollments and donations from supportive alumni have allowed them to keep tuition fees down.

“By contrast, conventional colleges have been hiking tuition fees so much that students naturally wonder whether the diploma they receive is worth the six-figure debt,” he noted.

“It turns out that chasing educational fads and emphasizing the political themes of the day doesn’t much impress modern audiences,” Tate wrote. “To the contrary, a rising number of students today are drawn to schools that emphasize tradition and faith.”

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “University of Dallas” by University of Dallas.


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