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Allen Guelzo

Cracks in the Tower

A closer look at the Christian college boom.

By the standards that please accountants, administrators, and the people who do the numbers, times have never been better for Christian higher education, or so it seems. After all, over the last ten years, total enrollment at Christian colleges has increased by more than 45 percent, nearly three times the rate of growth at the 1,600 private colleges and universities in the United States, and ten times the growth of enrollments in state schools. Total undergraduate enrollment at member institutions of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities now stands at over 135,000, with probably another 40,000 enrolled in ancillary and graduate programs. Endowments of Christian colleges have begun to creep up into the fabled top 500 of college and university endowments. Wheaton, the richest of all the Christian colleges, ranked 145th in the nation in terms of endowment in 1993, and ran a budget of $45.3 million; in 2002, its budget was $63 million, and its endowment stood at $159 million. The same good things were happening in other places, too. Messiah College, for instance, was sitting on an endowment of over $65 million in 1994 (ranking it 202nd in the nation) and $94 million in 2002; Gordon College saw its budget soar from $29 million in 1998 to $39 million in 2001.1

The high times even trickled down to the faculty. A full professor at Eastern College took home $44,000 in 1994; at Messiah, $48,000; and at Westmont, $48,900. In 2003, the full professor at Westmont was earning $68,700; at Messiah, $65,100; and at Eastern, $68,500.

Nor does any of this seem to be a fluke. "Christian elementary and secondary schools, home schooling, and youth ministries are all thriving," reported The Chronicle of Higher Education in a feature story in 1999, and they have provided a potent market for Christian higher education recruiting. Christian higher education has also developed more sophisticated marketing tools, and it has benefited from the increasing perception that secular and ...

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