NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Christian higher education, and the economics of it.
In recent years, the cost of higher education and student debt have been on the rise as the number of students enrolled in college has slipped. These trends mean fierce competition for students between public and private schools.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: At the same time, many Christian colleges and universities have come under fire for biblical views on marriage. In particular, how those views play out in student conduct codes and hiring practices. Some secular critics see those as evidence that Christian higher education isn’t worth the cost.
A new report seeks to answer that criticism. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg has the story.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Last year the Council for Christian College and Universities—or the CCCU—set out to calculate the economic impact of its 142 U.S. member and partner schools. Why?
Because students, parents and politicians are all asking if the cost of higher education, especially private education, is worth it.
HOOGSTRA: Is it too expensive? Do you get what you pay for? What about student loans? The value proposition is also a fair question.
Shirley Hoogstra is the president of the CCCU.
HOOGSTRA: I think it’s right for the constituents to say, “Is the investment of both the federal government and of student dollars worth it from an economic point of view?”
The new, independent report found Christian institutions generate more than $60 billion in economic impact each year for the U.S. economy or $166 million per day.
To put that number in perspective, that’s the same amount of money the entire world spent on both Apple and Google phone apps in 2017.
That $60 billion number is divided into two parts: the economic activity from Christian schools’ operations—more than $25 billion—and cumulative alumni earnings of almost $35 billion.
Combined, this provides the federal government with $10 billion in tax revenue annually. Shirley Hoogstra:
HOOGSTRA: You take that out, you’ve undercut the economy. You take out all the operations, undercut the economy. You take away the capital investments, you’ve undercut the economy. You take away the wage premium from an educated populus, you undercut the economy.
In addition, the study found CCCU students take out—on average—the least loans in the country.
Plus, it shows Christian college students don’t just consider how much money they can make. They are three times as likely to choose lower paying jobs in human service fields like education, mental health and counseling.
These numbers offer more than stats to put in promotional materials. In 2016, the California state legislature came close to passing a bill that would have eliminated religious exemptions to state anti-discrimination laws. Those exceptions allow Christian schools to making hiring decisions in line with their faith.
The legislation would have effectively eliminated distinguishable Christian higher education in the state—or put faithful schools at an extreme disadvantage.
Jon Wallace is the president of Azusa Pacific University near Los Angeles. He says the new economic data will help schools like his make the case for Christian higher education in advance of the next legislative threat.
WALLACE: What it does really is it pushes back against a false narrative that there are within private higher education institutions that don’t pull their weight. And what this report gives us is a real credibility when we walk through the door of our elected officials.
Some Christian college presidents believe the report also offers a clear message on how their schools should respond to mounting cultural pressures: keep being different.
Jerry Davis is the president of College of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri.
DAVIS: If we just secularize like other schools, then why spend the money? Why not just give it to Samaritan’s Purse? I think that we need to be paying more attention to how we distinguish ourselves and quit worrying about so-called progressive thinking.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.