It was on a shopping trip to San Francisco last January with his wife and daughter that Tom Younger suddenly fell ill. He was so sick that the women had to drive home with him in the back seat. At first it was thought that he had viral pneumonia, so Younger soon started playing hard at racquetball again. But his doctor changed his mind about the diagnosis, and he blanched when he heard about the racquetball. It hadn’t been pneumonia. It had been a mild heart attack.

Younger thought that perhaps it was time for him to step out of his job as president of Western Baptist College in Salem, Oregon. The school is typical of many small Christian colleges in the 1980s. Its student population, now about 300, is dwindling, it has no endowment, and occasionally it can’t meet the payroll for faculty and staff. The school is affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and money matters have been a constant drain on the time and the energy of its president.

In the nine years Younger held that job, the cost of educating students rose awesomely. In 1973, the year he arrived, it was $2,376 per student. By 1980 it was $5,752, and by 1981, $7,190. Because Western has no endowment, 92 percent of the operating budget comes from student tuition, and the student body has dropped by about a hundred in the last decade. The per-student cost has tripled in that decade because there are fewer and fewer students to bear the load.

Younger spent his entire last 12 months as president wrestling with presenting his board a balanced budget for the next 12 months. He didn’t make it. In a total budget of $2 million, there was still a gaping hole of $90,000.

That is why college presidents have to raise outside money, and it is a task distasteful ...

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