Naming the Ideal
Christian colleges and universities do their best to accommodate students who, for whatever reason, transfer in or out. For the record, not all students who transfer out of Christian institutions do so because of the price. Wayne Strickland, vice president and academic dean at Multnomah, notes that some students transfer because of their future career. Says Strickland, "We have a career counseling requirement, and as we process with a student regarding career goals, gifting, and talent, we may help them recognize that they need a university that better fits the program they need."
Strickland continues, "We recognize that the kingdom is much larger than Multnomah, and praise God when a student is where God can best accomplish his work of developing Christ-likeness and outfitting the person for service."
Nevertheless, in general the ideal is for students to spend the four years of their undergraduate education at one place. Says Houston Baptist's Steen, "The college experience for those who start and finish at the same institution will be significantly more robust and fulfilling than for those who transfer. Although the outcome may be the same, relationships with faculty will be fewer, opportunities for life outside the classroom will be fewer, and employers and graduate schools may even be less attracted to those who have transferred around."
Indeed, at least one major survey indicates that it's best for students to spend all four college years at the same institution. In 2008, the National Survey of Student Engagement questioned 380,000 randomly selected first-year and senior students at 722 four-year colleges and universities. The survey found that seniors who had transferred were in general "less engaged" in extracurricular activities and with faculty and classmates. According to the survey, seniors who had transferred talked less frequently with faculty about plans and were less likely to work with classmates outside of class.
"I often talk with families who accompany their students to visit LeTourneau," says Fitzhugh. "Many parents have told me that their first child attended a state school and that they thought they were ready to face life in 'the world,' only to discover it was a tragic mistake with sad consequences."
Fitzhugh urges parents to take seriously the results of a study by Gary Railsback, who found that a high percentage of young people who considered themselves "born again" as freshmen do not use that label after four years in a secular educational environment.
Ready to Sacrifice
For students to remain in one place for four years usually requires that they and their families make sacrifices they are not always willing to make. As Asbury's Harper puts it, "Finding families that are willing to pay for a four-year private education is more difficult than finding families that are able."
Bryan College provides financial incentives for students to spend all four years at Bryan instead of transferring in after a year or two. Says Bryan's Sapienza, "If a student wants to attend here, they realize that coming in as a freshman, they will receive far more renewable, merit-based aid than if they transfer in. The effect is that when they weigh the cost of the full four years, they find that entering as a freshman and receiving a strong financial aid package can be less expensive than going to a less expensive school and then coming here and paying nearly full tuition and room and board.
"When students take the long view, they understand that not only do we believe it is better for them to come here all four years, but we also back it up with our aid."
Turning Out Godly Adults
Cedarville's Smith encourages Christian parents facing tough decisions to ask basic questions such as: What is the goal of going to college? What kind of person do I hope my son or daughter will grow into? What kind of person do I hope he or she will be 10 years out of college? Twenty years?