Diversifying Christian higher education


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 17th of April, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. 

Half of the students in public schools are white. But in member schools of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, white students make up two-thirds of the student population.

That disparity calls attention to a disconnect between Christian higher education and the nation’s growing ethnic community.

But a new effort could change that.

It’s a scholarship program that grew out of a conference honoring the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

And WORLD Digital managing editor Leigh Jones joins me now to talk about it. Leigh, good morning.

LEIGH JONES, WORLD DIGITAL MANAGING EDITOR: Good morning, Nick.

Leigh, tell me about that scholarship program.

JONES: Well, this started as an initiative of the MLK50 conference, which was held earlier this month in Memphis. It was a combined effort of the Gospel Coalition and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and basically they wanted to have a legacy item that they could leave behind after the conference was over and so this was their solution. They reached out to a number of different Christian colleges and seminaries and asked if they would create scholarships specifically for students from Memphis.

Well, give me a bit of the backstory to the program. You mentioned that the conference organizers wanted some kind of legacy to leave behind, but how did the program actually come about?

JONES: Well, the conference had an advisory committee of local pastors. And so as part of the discussions about the conference, they kept mentioning education as a really important issue for the city going forward and so that’s how the scholarship funds came about. It wasn’t something the local pastors suggested specifically, but the organizers brainstorming it said, “Well, this maybe could be something that we could have an effect on student’s performance and improvement going forward.”

Leigh, when you think about the number of Christian colleges around the country, then take into account the number of total students, I mean, this is a relatively small number of scholarships. But you have reported that those who keep track of these numbers, they’re pretty excited about it. Tell me why.

JONES: Right. They’re hoping this might serve as a pilot program. So Pete Manjarres is a professor at Vanguard University and a senior fellow for diversity with the Counsel for Christian Colleges and Universities has done a lot of work on diversity initiatives and most of the time schools sort of work individually towards the effort — either providing specific scholarships for first generation college students or for minority students. But this is an example of how schools can work together to really target a specific area where there might not be as much engagement, particularly with Christian higher education. And so in terms of a regional effort, these kinds of things might really work to make a concerted difference rather than throwing it open to the whole country, so to speak. It’s more of a scattered shot whereas this is a really targeted effort to draw students from these specific areas.

So in Memphis I imagine there’s quite a bit of excitement about it.

JONES: Yes, the local pastors there when they heard about the program, they thought maybe they would get several scholarships, maybe five or six, something like that, but by the time the conference opened, there were about two dozen scholarships offered and more schools are coming on. So they expect over the next few weeks that they’ll be able to announce that the total number of scholarship dollars has increased and so have the number of students that will be affected by all of this.

Leigh Jones is managing editor of WORLD Digital. Leigh, thank you.

JONES: Thanks, Nick.


(Facebook/Dallas Baptist University)

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