A closer look at Christian higher ed
“It matters who your son or daughter listens to every day in class, so I think the great value of a Christian education is that young minds and hearts and souls are looking up to godly men and women and learning from them,” said the Rev. Tom Clemmons, CSU’s vice president for enrollment management.
Clemmons is in a position to know. Not only is he heading up efforts to enroll students at Charleston Southern but he and his wife, Melissa, are the parents of three young men, one of whom is a current CSU student.
Clemmons said, “Students at Christian universities are sharing life with faculty and staff and peers who share a biblical worldview. That’s a great investment in them now and in their future. I would say a much better investment than spending 30 or 40k on a cool car – invest in something that will drive them for the rest of their lives. A purpose. A mission to make much of Christ and not themselves. They will soak in the classroom and the athletic fields, the stairwells and the dorm rooms, and these sponges will then be squeezed one day. We hope that Christ will ooze out of them as they integrate their faith in any and every profession and calling.”
From the Beginning
The founders of the Baptist College at Charleston, now CSU, saw the need for an additional college in the Lowcountry of South Carolina due to population growth in the area. From the beginning, they knew that a faith-based school was the answer. In the late 1950s, there was not a faith-based college east of Columbia.
Fast forward more than 60 years, and Charleston Southern has made its mark on the city, state and beyond by equipping graduates to integrate faith in all that they do. The founders used Matthew 28:19-20, also known as the Great Commission, as the guiding direction for the university: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” The Great Commission still provides the driving force for the university.
Benefits of Christian Education
In an increasingly tough higher education market, it can be difficult to sell a private university education to prospective students and their parents. The false impression people have is that a Christian private education will be more expensive than public and other private schools.
Charleston Southern is a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. CCCU conducts extensive research and releases reports regularly which debunk that impression. Many factors play into higher education funding, and a private Christian school may be cheaper than you think.
In “The Case for Christian Higher Education,” CCCU reports, “Christian colleges and universities see it as their mission to provide an affordable quality education for students and families choosing Christian higher education. Students receive more financial aid from our campuses than they do from state and federal governments. Our institutions are priced below other private schools and welcome students with high financial need. At the same time, our graduates repay whatever funds they do borrow at significantly higher rates than their peers. CCCU institutions have the lowest default rates in higher education.”
A study conducted by Econsult Solutions titled “Building the Common Good: The National Impact of Council for Christian Colleges & Universities” reveals some interesting facts:
- “For every $1 in federal grant money a student receives, CCCU institutions provide $5 in aid to that student through grants and scholarships.”
- According to the U.S. Department of Education, CCCU students take out the least in loans.
- “CCCU students are more likely to be first-generation students and are less likely to come from high earning families.”
- “CCCU students and alumni bring a faith-informed perspective to careers in a wide range of fields, including business and finance, which represents the top career cluster for CCCU students. In addition, CCCU students are overrepresented in fields that may not maximize earning but deliver social benefits such as human services and education.”
Beyond Financial Benefits
Prospective students and their parents are looking for a guarantee of a job following graduation. While CSU desires the same thing for our graduates, administrators, faculty and staff know that a Christian education offers so much more. It prepares students and graduates to make better decisions long-term, to be parents who will pass on values to their children and grandchildren, to serve in their churches and communities, and to be employees who are ethical and exercise integrity.
President Dondi E. Costin points to the Great Commission and CSU’s role in making disciples as the basis for the university’s strategic plan for 2020-2025. He said, “We are coordinating a comprehensive system to ensure every student has the opportunity to find and fulfill their life purpose.
“By equipping students with a biblical worldview, competencies to perform at the highest levels, godly character, and experiences to grow their grit, our mission includes guiding them to find their sweet spot in life. As an ideal, this sweet spot occurs at the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you’re paid for. We call it living a life of significance on purpose,” said Costin. “Preparing students for that purpose is what we do.”
In addition, he said, “Christians develop a long-term view and learn to be content, thankful, joyful, productive, and God-glorifying in every situation, regardless of their circumstances.”
Some additional benefits of Christian universities are:
- Experiencing an atmosphere where people have a genuine love for Christ and others
- Preparing for a life of service
- Learning from the best-selling book of all time through the study of the Old and New Testaments
- Understanding and training for a greater purpose as well as training in specific fields of study
- Incorporating a holistic view of life
- Learning from Christian faculty, staff, coaches, mentors and counselors
- Training that will provide the background and knowledge to face a future filled with jobs and challenges we can’t even imagine now.
When New York Times columnist David Brooks was writing his book, The Road to Character, he visited multiple Christian college campuses. Reflecting on the experience with a group of Christian college leaders, Brooks said, “You guys are the avant-garde of 21st century culture. You have what everybody else is desperate to have: a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion and intellect. You have a recipe to nurture human beings who have a devoted heart, a courageous mind and a purposeful soul. Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it.”