America’s Christian colleges are in trouble. About thirty-five have died this year, unable to cope with soaring costs and exploding fields of knowledge. And observers predict nearly 1,000 deaths in the next two decades. But the crisis has spurred a lot of fresh thinking among educators. Consider these pioneering efforts:
- In Detroit, nondenominational John Wesley Foundation hopes to sponsor some twenty-five satellite schools in the next five years. The plan: students would take most of their course work at secular colleges, while living and studying religion at a near-by Christian campus called, at each location, John Wesley College. The degree would come from the secular school.
- Near San Diego, Skyline Christian Institute will begin pilot classes this month for a similar, but graduate-oriented, satellite school. The institute describes itself as a “powerhouse, generating a love of Christ which the students carry daily on to the secular campus,” rather than “a greenhouse in which we cultivate students in isolation from the secular world.”
- Close to the nation’s capital, a Baptist minister is planning an experiment in “world-community” to be called Dag Hammarskjold College. Though the school is described as a “Christian mission,” its goals sound more like those of the secular university.
- Ground has been broken in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for American College, a superpatriotic school that will affirm “Americanist ideas.”
Spearhead of the Wesley colleges is Dr. Kenneth Armstrong, 42, pastor of Detroit’s First Nazarene Church. The first Wesley college is scheduled to open in two years with a $6 million-dollar plant in Detroit (the only major city in America without an accredited Protestant college). It will emphasize “both Christian and democratic” principles, which Armstrong says include “the value of the free market economy” and “individual responsibility.”
Each Wesley college will feature a professional counseling staff—available to both students and the public—a 110-foot tower with an eternal flame, and a faculty expected to be made up exclusively of Ph.Ds.
Two thousand miles away, Skyline plans to launch a professionally oriented satellite program (see News, August 30, 1968, page 45). Unlike the Wesley colleges, SCI will not seek accreditation; academic standing is expected to rest on the secular schools its students attend.
Initially tied to Skyline Wesleyan Church in Lemon Grove, California, SCI recently cut ties and became nondenominational. Its staff expects to begin three pilot classes this fall, complete the first building by Christmas, and assume full operation (with a faculty of six) by September of 1970.
Dag Hammarskjöld College, also scheduled to open its doors in 1970, is said to be a “Christian mission.” Based in Maryland’s experimental city, Columbia, the school will enroll 1,440 high-capability students, 60 per cent of them non-American.
Its format, seeking relevance to the “growing world village and the basic causes of student unrest,” betrays more humanism than Christianity. Scientific humanists and Communists will be especially welcome in an atmosphere of “confrontation” helped along by Students for a Democratic Society, whose spokesmen reportedly said the school will be a “challenge to disrupt.”
School president Dr. Robert McCan, who describes himself as theologically orthodox, explains his “Christian mission” this way: Through “confrontation,” not “manipulation,” the college will attempt to “cultivate concern for spiritual things.… Realization of ultimate reality—I call it God—is basic to education.” He nevertheless admits some Christian students may lose their faith. “Who is converted is left to the Holy Spirit.”
Much less likely to attract Communists is Billy James Hargis’s American College, scheduled to open in the fall of 1970. Groundbreaking came last month during the annual convention of ultra-conservative Hargis’s Christian Crusade. The school, designed to counter-balance “degenerate” influences at secular universities, will teach “God, government, and Christian action.”
Starting as a junior college, Hargis’s latest enterprise will grant associate-of-arts degrees in six liberal-arts categories. It will seek accreditation and professors with earned doctorates.
Hargis is unhappy that “young people can go to so few schools that champion conservative principles and Americanist ideas” and wants to teach students to be “militant, patriotic Americans.” Moral standards at his school, he pledges, will be strict. Tulsa is already the home of Oral Roberts University (see March 28, 1969, issue page 40).
In other recent developments:
- New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller vetoed a bill that would have included church-related colleges in a $15 million program of state aid to private institutions of higher learning.
- Kentucky Southern College finally merged this month with the University of Louisville to clear a $4.25 million debt. Two years ago, Kentucky Southern withdrew from a debt-inspired union with Louisville when students raised $1.2 million in a “Save Our School” campaign. In a move for federal funds, KSC earlier in 1967 broke ties with the Southern Baptist Convention; but even with federal aid it was unable to cover operating costs. Merger means complete loss of identity for Kentucky Southern.
- Richmond College, Canada’s only evangelical liberal-arts institution, has a new president. Geophysicist Dr. Hugh White replaces his brother-in-law, the Rev. Elmer McVety. Still feeling the effects of its precarious beginning several years ago (see September 1, 1967 issue, page 42), Richmond is making a bid for support from Toronto’s evangelicals.
- Grand Canyon College, a lightly endowed Southern Baptist school in Arizona, has operated in the red fifteen of its twenty years. Now it must raise $125,000 by November to avert closure.
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