Fewer funds and students put small liberal arts colleges on a collision course with increased costs.

Consider the fifth graders, how they grow. There are about three million of them in the United States this year. Most of them will finish high school in 1990, and assuming that about 20 percent come from evangelical homes, almost a half-million of them could be ready to start college that fall. Consider a 10-year-old: a grandchild, a niece or nephew, your friend’s child, or your own. Consider someone with a quick mind, eagerness for life, and a spiritual curiosity that make you assume, “Someday that one will go to college, maybe a Christian college.”

When such promising young people are ready for a Christian college education, will they be able to afford it? And which Christian colleges will still be able to provide it? Will the Christian colleges have withered from the harsh convergence of all the negative forces now gathering against them, or will they have emerged as a vibrant and more visible element in American higher education? Some observers fear that the surviving Christian colleges will be of just two types: either so expensive only the rich can afford to attend, or so educationally impoverished only marginal students will consider them.

These resilient institutions have already outlasted numerous predictions of their disappearance and have provided a special kind of education to millions of evangelical college students. To survive, they have mastered the art of living hand-to-mouth on penny-pinching budgets. Few of them have accumulated much endowment, but the relative abundance of college students and mortgage loans during the sixties and seventies, plus the “visibility” of evangelicals in the society, did enable ...

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