Seeking a Higher Education Enrollment Up at Religious Colleges
Byline: Dalia Hatuqa Medill News Service
To generations of college-goers whose experiences have inspired movies like "Animal House" and "Van Wilder," Ben Dodd's priorities might seem a little odd.
"When I was applying to colleges, partying was not something that appealed to me at all," says Dodd, who graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in biblical studies from Trinity International University in Deerfield.
Dodd is one of a growing number of students choosing to attend Christian evangelical colleges and universities rather their secular counterparts.
Enrollment skyrocketed from 135,000 in 1990 to 230,000 in 2004 at the 102 campuses that belong to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. That's an increase of 70 percent.
Enrollment at nonreligious private colleges grew only 28 percent, while enrollment at public universities increased by 13 percent over the same period.
The figures come from a study of federal education data compiled by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in collaboration with the CCCU.
At Wheaton College, enrollment has increased 9 percent since 1990. According to Shawn Leftwich, the college's director of admissions, that's because more students are seeking a school with "moral fiber."
Evangelical colleges are becoming increasingly attractive because they do not separate the ideas of faith and morality from what's being taught in the classroom, Leftwich says.
"There is a firm foundation biblically, and it's ringing true for a number of people," she says. "Students can bring their faith into the classroom and they don't have to compartmentalize that part of themselves."
"The way faith is integrated into the classroom is a great strength," Dodd says. "It's a more holistic education. ... I feel I've learned a better way of living."
Faith is also a part of the experience at Judson College in Elgin, which has had a 14 percent increase in enrollment since 2001 - from 1,089 to 1,247 students, according to Tonya Lucchetti- Hudson, Judson's director of communications.
"Christian liberal colleges offer students a great value for their dollar," Lucchetti-Hudson says, "especially since ethics and values are infused into the curriculum itself."
Larry Braskamp, professor emeritus of education at Loyola University in Chicago, says religion in general is becoming more important in public life, and that religious fervor is helping boost enrollment at religious colleges - seen as "safe yet challenging places. …