Christian Higher Education at Critical Crossroads
Christian higher education is at a critical crossroads.
The entire landscape of higher education, and Christian higher education in particular, is changing at such a rapid pace that the presidents of these institutions must both act and plan with a sense of serious urgency.
It is crucial for Christian higher education to lead, because it was Christian schools founded on faith which set the standard for educational excellence in this country. For hundreds of years, the pursuit of truth and integration of faith and learning were the cornerstone of education. Students were provided rigorous academics while discovering their calling and receiving the empowerment needed to serve society with a conviction that had a distinctive outcome. The most recognizable institutions in the nation were founded on such principles.
As the demand for higher education increased, the emphasis on faith and calling eroded. This great American tragedy continues today.
For the good of all, institutions of Christian higher education must radically pursue the intentionally Christian path if we hope to strengthen what remains and follow our calling. It is time to unapologetically promote, with passion and purpose, a superior way for students to discover their calling while building a new era of influential universities based on the foundation of biblical truth.
The timing is critical. A recession coupled with accelerating governmental intrusion into the business of higher education could have potentially devastating consequences on Christian campuses across the country.
To distance ourselves from these circumstances, Christian higher education must become self-sustaining by moving away from the outside influences with our scholarships and operating costs. We must develop new and great processes, culture and services that continue to generate growth, prosperity and independence from a governmental bureaucracy and economy that continues to create uncertainty.
This will not be easy. Financial aid systems, presumptuous legislation, required compliance and government agencies are not designed to support this kind of independent thinking. Yet Christian colleges believe in a God that owns it all already; a God who has given us a great platform and great people, and we have solid evidence to trust in the incredible potential to realize this possibility at such a time as this.
We all recognize the challenges facing higher education. Spiraling tuition and fees, reduced state and federal aid, massive technology costs, significant facility needs, troublesome searches for specialized faculty and adapting to new delivery modalities to name a few. We also know it is not how many students start college that matters, but how many complete it and achieve something better because of it. Our success will in great part be measured by this expectation, and our future will clearly depend on it.
To face these challenges, a radical pursuit of a purpose-driven university will be built heavily on innovation. More than that, Christian higher education must lead the way to new avenues of spiritual commitment and character development, new methods of delivery, new vanguard curriculum and programs, and new opportunities for excellence and service. Our expectations are, and should be, great because they come from a higher Authority.
We must not only celebrate the development of new ideas, but move such ideas quickly to campus conversations and quick implementation. Most Christian colleges have streamlined organizational advantages, with flexibility and rapid response often at the top. We have an opportunity to be more nimble and responsive than most campuses because of our size, our mission and our eagerness and belief in what we do. Such faith will prove to be significant in the quest for growth and independence.
Our radical pursuit of being a purpose-driven university must define us. Any college can commit to instill knowledge, but only a few can instill the Christian character and the understanding of calling, that equips students to help them use knowledge well. Purpose-driven means our students will be trained to be servant leaders since they will be the ones who determine the future quality of our homes, schools, businesses, government and the world.
In the history of Christianity, when it engaged with the world for change, past evidence clearly shows education was the key. Christian higher education holds that key and needs to boldly and radically step forward to take a prominent position in that role and responsibility. Time is of the essence.