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    A College Education That Makes the Grade

    Enrollment at Christian colleges is soaring. Here's why.

    Diane Vescovi

    Christian colleges and universities are gaining more influence in American society, and are busy training a new generation of confident leaders. This influence is due largely to Christian schools offering a unique educational experience, preparing students for positive and productive lives beyond college.

    Enrollment statistics from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that the benefits of a Christian college education are drawing more and more students. Schools that belong to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) increased their fall enrollments by 70 percent between 1990 and 2004. Other private schools had 28 percent growth in their fall enrollments, and state institutions saw only a 13 percent rise during that period.

    When CCCU conducted a survey to find out which factors increase student satisfaction, it found that a knowledgeable, available faculty topped the list.

    Attention to students' success

    At Cedarville University, professors challenge students to think biblically in every subject area. Students there have achieved top rankings at national competitions in business, engineering, forensics, debate, and political studies. With their post-graduation goals in view, 95 percent of Cedarville's class of 2007 worked following graduation, and 87 percent of them found jobs in their academic disciplines. Eighteen percent went on to graduate school, many of whom are simultaneously working in their field.

    The Leadership Institute at Cedarville offers opportunities and practical training for students to develop their skills as leaders. Spiritual nurture has a distinctive place in daily chapels, while discipleship groups share Bible study, mentoring, accountability, prayer, and open discussion. Programs of character formation and mentoring assist students in their growth toward mature Christian reflection and thoughtful decision making.

    The dedicated faculty and caring staff at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, help account for how students' understanding of God is strengthened there, both in and outside the classroom. Hunter Baker, director of strategic planning at Houston Baptist University in Texas, observes, "In addition to the breadth and depth of knowledge in Christian academics, you also get Christian professors really interested in the development of the student. That means caring deeply about their learning process and their growth into professionals."

    Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, can point to educational outcomes to prove its programs' effectiveness. Each year more than 400 leading businesses, global service organizations, and prominent graduate schools welcome new Messiah graduates. In fact, within six months of graduating, 98 percent of Messiah's past-year graduates surveyed are either employed full-time, attending graduate school, or engaged in voluntary service.

    To prepare students to enter the workplace, Messiah runs an internship center that has become a model, providing know-how and training material to 350 colleges and universities nationwide. The center offers interns one-on-one instruction and weekly classes, which cover topics like managing employee/supervisor relationships and evaluating job offers and benefits plans.

    James Steen, vice president of enrollment management and student life at Houston Baptist University, says, "We emphasize growth academically, socially, physically, and spiritually." Baker adds, "Students in a Christian college have the opportunity to learn more rather than less. There is often actually more academic freedom in Christian institutions because we don't quarantine the faith. We consider life the way it is."

    Honors students gain access to lifetime opportunities


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