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Ask any high-school senior if colleges are competing for his or her attention, and the answer is simple enough: "Check out my mailbox." Flashy fliers and brilliant brochures—some even come with fancy DVD "tour guides"—arrive almost daily, essentially screaming, "Pick me! Pick me!"

Christian institutions are in on the act, with their own flurry of clever slogans, beautiful pictures, and dazzling graphics. These days, just as important as marketing and defining a niche, schools need to respond to the many challenges that face Christian higher education—such as affordability, elitism, and cultural and missional relevance. Here are five schools that address those challenges in unique ways.

Alaska Christian College

Rae Fancher had been raped and abused as a young girl, so when she first came to Alaska Christian College (ACC) as a freshman, her needs were far more than academic. "There were times I couldn't even be in the same room with a man," she recalled. "I'd start shaking and crying."

Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Fancher found hope at the school's counseling center, ultimately "working through that," as she put it, and later defying all odds by making it through boot camp at the U.S. Naval Academy. Today, she is a commissioned United States Naval officer—the first Alaska Native female to hold the position—stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Fancher's story is not unusual. ACC president Keith Hamilton says about half of its male students and roughly 90 percent of its female students have been sexually abused in the past. For many Alaska Native youth, the future, like the long winter nights that surround them, is dark. Only about 67 percent of them complete high school, and of those ...

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Little Colleges That Could
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March 2012

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