Just before the fall term opened, the presidents of five Christian colleges discussed with the editors ofCHRISTIANITY TODAYissues facing evangelical higher education this year. Assembled at the headquarters of the Christian College Consortium, Washington, D.C., wereLyle C. Hillegas,Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California;D. Ray Hostetter,Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania;Carl H. Lundquist,Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota;David L. McKenna,Seattle Pacific College, Seattle, Washington, andLon D. Randall,Malone College, Canton, Ohio. They were joined byGordon R. Werkema,president of the consortium. Excerpts from the interview follow:

Question. We’d like your responses first of all to some questions related to getting and keeping students. Are the Christian colleges pricing themselves out of the market? Is there a point beyond which you cannot increase the cost to students? And to what extent are you recruiting minority students?

Hillegas. Because of their concern over these matters, our trustees have held down the cost increase to only 3 per cent this year. The majority of our students are from middle-income families, and they are hit hardest. They can’t pay the full amount themselves, but they aren’t eligible for grants offered by the state to low-in-come families. Therefore, about 60 per cent of our students are on scholarships or work assistance of some kind. In the area of minority recruitment, financing is only one of the problems we have encountered. We have welcomed minority students, but we have had particular difficulty in getting blacks.

Q. Southern California has a lot of people with Spanish surnames. Do you get any of them?

Hillegas. Yes, and they seem to fit in better than blacks. We also have Orientals, and there is no difficulty with them. Even the good efforts on the part of white students seem not to be received well by the blacks, and the blacks easily become isolated.

Q. What have you done to reach black students? If they feel that your programs are “culturally white,” what have you done to make them “blacker”?

Hillegas. It’s hard for us to understand how separated some of these kids feel, but we have tried to help in a variety of ways. We have had Black Emphasis Week in chapel and also special speakers with a black point of view at other times. In planning campus social events, we have tried to keep everyone in mind and have made a point of asking the minority students to plan some events. We have even served “soul food.” We have tried, but we have failed to recruit black faculty members. Overall, I take no pride in listing our attempts to include minorities because I do not think we have succeeded at all.

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McKenna. Our approach to the black question must be realistic. We are institutions that are dependent on a constituency, the evangelical Christian community. We are told on one hand to be representative of that community and on the other to push into new areas. This issue must rest on the fact that the evangelical Christian community has not provided us with a black evangelical base from which to draw. Yet the onus has been put on the colleges from governmental and other quarters. Until the evangelical Christian community establishes a black evangelical base, we simply will not be able to respond effectively to these pressures.

Q. Is Seattle Pacific pricing itself out of the market?

McKenna. We have completed an interesting study showing trends since 1900 in enrollment and costs. The Christian colleges have stayed on the track of the enrollment increase in higher education in the nation. The average rate of increase was 6.8 per cent per year, and the depression cycle of the 1920s and 30s had no effect on enrollment. Neither did World War II in terms of the overall figures.

When you turn to the pricing question, the Christian colleges maintained the growth trend during the Depression. This illustrates a key principle in pricing which we call inelastic demand, which means that increased price will not affect enrollment. We lived with that assumption through history, but since 1966 we have found that the Christian colleges have gone off the track. The number of students involved in higher education nationally has continued to increase, but the number in Christian colleges has not. I doubt that we can get back on the track. The question now is whether the pricing question will shift from the inelastic demand to the elastic demand.

Another study during the past year showed that parents whose children attend secular institutions simply send the children to cheaper schools when higher priced ones approach the limits of their ability to pay. But in Christian institutions parents were willing to pay more than they were able to pay. We have a “sacrifice gap.” Our question is, how wide can that gap be before we are priced out of the market?

Q. Why are Christian parents willing to pay more?

McKenna. Obviously it is because of their commitment to the purposes of the institution. From the secular point of view it would be called a safe school, and you pay for safeness. From our point of view it is because they are committed to Christian higher education, representing values of home and church they hope to see perpetuated.

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Q. What about pricing as it related to the quality of your program?

McKenna. That is where the price question hits first. Over the long term the question is quality, not survival. We can figure out ways of surviving, but can we upgrade existing programs? Can we fund innovations? The pricing question crunches from two sides: Are parents willing to sacrifice for sons and daughters to attend at a modest cost level, and are they willing to send them if we fail to maintain quality?

Q. Isn’t your commitment to quality a factor?

McKenna. Yes, and when we cannot maintain the quality of program the institution must look for alternatives. Mergers are one possibility. Such cooperative arrangements as the Christian College Consortium are another.

Q. Are there other solutions?

Lundquist. One of the solutions is to encourage public support for students, allowing them to choose their schools on the pattern of the old G.I. Bill of Rights.

Q. Do you mean federal funding and the right to choose a religious institution despite any problems of church-state separation?

Lundquist. I think the old G.I. Bill showed there were no church-state problems in this type of educational financing. The costs are going to go up everywhere, and the parent or taxpayer will have to pay for it in some form or another. Subsidize the student, and let him choose his school. I hope that if this is not done on the federal level it will be done by the states. However, since many Christian colleges serve national constituencies, as others do also, it would be better for this funding to be handled nationally. State money would be limited to a single state and could not be used elsewhere. This tends to build little fiefdoms across the country, and I don’t think that’s good for America or for higher education.

Q. Is Bethel pricing itself out of the market?

Lundquist. Ten years ago I would have said yes, but we have had ten years of constantly increasing prices with interesting results. Every time we have increased student costs we have had an increase in enrollment the next year.

Q. Has any thought been given to loan programs that would enable students to pay for their education with their future earnings?

Lundquist. All our alumni programs probably work on some variant of that. You can call it a loan and ask him to pay it back over a lifetime. Or you can call it an investment in him and ask that the alumnus give to other generations the equivalent of the investment which was made in him. It comes out the same in dollars.

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Hostetter. The loan idea is good for the institution with strong financial resources and the ability to carry this over the years until the students are earning enough to pay off the loans. This may apply at a Yale or a Princeton, but I doubt if smaller colleges generally have even looked at it. It takes too much to extend that kind of credit. The lending institutions are not even cooperating with the government loan programs that are already set up, and I don’t think we can expect them to favor any established by individual schools or groups of institutions.

We have been working at the minority-recruitment matter for years. Some administration and teaching appointments have helped. We have named a black as the new dean of our Philadelphia campus. But the plain fact is that the evangelical community has not laid the basis for getting minority students who will identify with the purposes of the institution. In Pennsylvania we are also faced with the competition of fourteen state colleges which have been ordered to increase black enrollment from 1 or 2 per cent to 5 or 10 per cent. The public and independent institutions, to meet their quotas, are “buying” students, and the Christian colleges find it difficult to compete.

Q. Could any of the colleges which we are talking about be underpriced?

Randall. Yes, I think Malone is probably underpriced. When the Christian College Consortium had ten members, we were lowest in total cost. I don’t know where we are ranked now that there are twelve. It is significant that we are below the median (in cost) of the private colleges in Ohio, and 90 per cent of our students come from Ohio. In the last four years we have had significant increases in our costs, and yet student enrollment increases have continued.

Q. Are your faculty salaries lower than those of some of these schools which cost more?

Randall. No. In the consortium we are fourth or fifth in the salaries of professors and associate professors.

Q. How do you do it?

Randall. We are simply not putting as much money into some other areas, such as physical plant.

Q. With larger salaries are you getting fewer faculty members to cover more classes? If so, what is this doing to quality?

Randall. We do not believe we are sacrificing quality. Our 1980 goal for student-faculty ratio is 20:1. Right now the student-faculty ratio is about 17.5:1.

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Q. What about possibilities of other sources of funds?

Lundquist. I want to emphasize that I don’t think direct government subsidy to students is the only solution. As long as we actually produce the kind of education we say we produce, there will be people who believe in that and who will want to support it. Ultimately it will be the Christian people who will back our kind of schools. This is an even better hope than public aid. It does mean that stewardship levels will have to keep climbing, and I am an optimist about that.

Q. What are the prospects now on the government-aid front?

Hillegas. None of us knows where this will end since there are so many cases being argued now. As I understand what has happened in some states, aid has been going to individual students, but the Christian colleges with any recipients enrolled are being required to cancel programs that have been distinctively a part of Christian higher education. At Westmont I don’t think we would be interested in canceling those kinds of things in order to qualify for government subsidies. So far, this hasn’t touched us in California, and there is a rather good student scholarship program which aids over 200 of our 1,000 students. It would hurt if that were cut back. But if we were told to drop required Bible courses and required chapel to continue getting such help, we would have to stand firm at that point.

McKenna. Both judicial and legislative climates seem to be unfavorable now. There seems to be little hope in any of the test cases regarding aid to institutions with a sectarian base—especially direct institutional aid. There will certainly be challenges to financial assistance for students in sectarian schools. In the legislative area, the emphasis seems to be on non-discrimination. That catches us under the umbrella of religious non-discrimination and the sectarian issue again. Legislators are being put into the vise of saying whether they are for non-discrimination or for aid to sectarian institutions. They usually come down on the side of non-discrimination.

Another issue of greater importance is shaping up in Congress as the total amount of available federal higher education money is being reduced. We are seeing the first signs of a public-private conflict. A provision of one of the bills would lift the one-half cost ceiling on basic opportunity grants, meaning that some individual students would get more money, but the total number receiving the grants would diminish. These funds would then tend to shift to the lower-priced institutions, namely community colleges and vocational type programs, and thus this money would be pulled away from the private sector.

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Werkema. The underlying question is whether the public is willing to support choice. I am not optimistic about that. Instead, public policy will more likely come down on the side of access. The public pulse seems to be that as long as there is access to state-approved programs (and they are obviously secular ones), then the public obligation has been met. Our institutions, however, take choice very seriously. Unfortunately, the will of the public, as seen in the press, the community, and in legislatures, does not really support choice.

Q. Are any of the Christian colleges now receiving direct institutional grants from states?

Hostetter. Last year Pennsylvania did provide an institutional-assistance program of grants for one year, and Messiah was a recipient. It has been approved for a second year, but funding is uncertain. More conservative interpretations of state constitutions have been visible elsewhere, but Pennsylvania has always looked at this more liberally. Some 40 per cent of its students are in private independent institutions, as compared with 20 per cent nationwide. Historically, Pennsylvania has helped the private schools, but that may not be a certainty a year from now.

Q. Where are the possibilities of federal or state loans to students?

McKenna. This goes back to the access versus choice question. Grants are related to access. Loans are related to choice. The tendency in the legislatures now is to shift the loan programs from the states to the federal government. Most of the federal assistance goes through the basic opportunity grants for the poorer and needier students. The trend is away from programs that favor the choice concept. There are also pure economic factors that make loans more difficult for students in Christian colleges. Keep in mind that Yale has a high return on its product in terms of income-yielding professions, whereas graduates of our institutions go into service professions.

Q. Some of these concerns about financing arise because you claim a unique function not performed by the secular schools, namely, integrating Christian faith and learning. Exactly what are you doing to make faith paramount in your curricula and in the general life of the institutions?

Hillegas. The most obvious factor is the faculty. At Westmont we believe that this will never happen unless the person in charge of every class has a world and life view that is genuinely Christian. In addition, we have begun a “Christ in Culture” orientation for freshmen to try to bring the whole matter of Christian faith to every aspect of life. We have found that many students choose a college like ours without really having understood its distinctives. We also require every freshman and transfer student to use the January inter-term program to deal historically with the positions people have taken since the beginning of the Christian era. They give all their energies during this period to working with faculty on basic Christian philosophies. I am also concerned that many faculty people come to us from graduate work at secular universities, where they have concentrated their energies in one professional field. Some have no formal theological training. Our dean is very much given to faculty development in the area of theology. The Faith and Learning conferences of the consortium have made a great impact, but I am not satisfied yet with what we are doing in this area. Our faculty are extremely open to working the larger theological discipline in addition to their own, but it puts a heavy burden on them academically.

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Hostetter. Assuming that all truth centers in Jesus Christ, we work very hard not only at integrating faith and learning but also at integrating all the disciplines. From the freshman through senior levels our general education program crosses all disciplinary lines.

Lundquist. A number of Christian colleges, including ours, are now requiring a teacher to write a statement of his own integration of Christian faith with his discipline before he is promoted to the rank of professor. This is one of the criteria for promotion. We still have acceptance of an institutional statement of faith as the basis for initial employment of all faculty. That, however, does not assure integration of faith with his discipline.

Randall. In addition to programs similar to those already mentioned, we have what we call the Capstone Course. This is an attempt at the end of the academic experience to draw everything together. We also believe in the impact of the chapel program, where faculty people and outside speakers can show the relationship of faith to knowledge.

McKenna. This is the home point for the need for the Christian college. The last Carnegie report pointed out that of all the tasks that were carved out for higher education, the one unfinished task and future agenda is social renewal through value learning and value commitment. The report said that no one had any values on which they could agree or any ground rules for doing this. At Seattle Pacific we took the challenge seriously. Our faculty is geared to the academese-sounding “Institute for the Development of an Evangelical Axiology” (IDEA). We have focused on the key issues of determining an evangelical Christian world view for society in general, for the family, and for the areas of work, leisure, and the environment. Our workshops and retreats are devoted to this. We do foresee a generation conflict between the idea-centered faculty member and the experience-centered student. We are going to have to integrate those two worlds to be effective and to meet the needs of the students.

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Q. Over recent decades there has been a distinct change in campus styles and attitudes. What is going on in the area of life-style and parietal rules on the Christian campus? Are Christian colleges “less Christian” from that viewpoint today?

McKenna. In my opinion the defection of the Christian college in American higher education has been in putting the emphasis upon the support style of campus as that which makes us Christians. We have combined that with an inadequate representation of faith-learning questions in the curriculum itself. I think it is a healthy sign that we are now shifting from an emphasis on the support style to curriculum changes. Students are asking “where the rubber meets the road,” and it’s in the faith-learning integration questions. They are calling us to task. Furthermore, society has changed, the family has changed, parents have changed, and there’s a lower age of majority. Colleges are more interested in having students internalize values than in authoritatively and paternally putting them under regulations.

Lundquist. I don’t think those changes represent any deviation in theology or disloyalty to Christ. In our school we emphasize that we are to penetrate the structures of society for Christ and be a part of the world. The world setting itself is amoral, and many of its prevailing moods are neither good nor bad. It’s simply the medium in which we work. Such things as length of hair, style of clothing, and hours kept in the dormitory are incidental. Where compromise takes place is at a much more fundamental level than that.

Q. Does that mean that the Christian collegians of the seventies are more responsible than those of the fifties?

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Werkema. We had quite a different type of student in the fifties. The questions raised here describe what I call the maturation of the Christian college in its task as a college. It’s a sharpening of the educational task on solid Christian foundations.

McKenna. There is a new phenomenon in our institutions. We are getting a new constituency in the Christian colleges, and it represents our recent growth. These students are the product of what I would call the movement of the Spirit. Some have come to their commitment through the para-church ministries, but with little Christian influence in their homes or in traditional churches. They are coming to us with a greater sense of being called to Christian higher education. They are smoking us out to prove who we are and what we believe. They are affecting the Church as well, and preaching is becoming more biblically centered. This is a new and hopeful sign for Church and college.

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