COVID-19 and ‘woke’ culture drive enrollment increases at conservative religious colleges

A compact team of conservative religious colleges are defying the nationwide development of declining enrollment in greater education and crediting their missions, as nicely as their managing of COVID-19, for the bump.

University enrollment nationwide has declined by around 1 million pupils considering the fact that 2019, with the largest drop in 2020, according to a report from the Nationwide Scholar Clearinghouse Analysis Heart in January. The drop has largely been blamed on learners becoming essential to go to college pretty much or beneath restriction.

Even through the spring semester of 2022, establishments this kind of as Yale University and Georgetown College shifted lessons on the web and, in the situation of Yale, even restricted learners from going to dining establishments off-campus.


Compounded with it all is the inclination of secular faculties and universities to preserve a campus ecosystem with significant concentrations of hostility toward conservative and spiritual ideals. For example, students at Stanford University attempted to block a recent lecture by previous Vice President Mike Pence, and learners at Georgetown Legislation University held a sit-in demanding a professor’s firing and a house to cry.

But although many four-calendar year colleges and universities throughout the country failed to open their campuses to in-individual lessons in the previous two several years, or positioned heavy limits on students if they did, and promoted liberal political action on campus although limiting conservatives, a modest contingent of conservative spiritual colleges went to fantastic lengths to supply in-particular person lessons and a standard campus way of living, free of censorship of conservative values.

The conclusion consequence was report enrollment at numerous Catholic and Christian schools in geographically assorted states, from Colorado and Michigan to Virginia and Ohio, all of which opened their doorways for total, in-particular person lessons around the earlier two many years.

But as a lot as opening their campuses throughout a pandemic-stricken faculty calendar year helped allay COVID-19-affiliated enrollment declines, the schools were being unified in crediting their exceptional missions as the accurate driver of their document enrollment.

Just after viewing a nearly 20-yr high in applications and a 2021 freshman course of 629, much more than 100 pupils more substantial than 2020, Grove City University in western Pennsylvania surveyed the incoming course to find out what it was about the university that contributed to the enormous soar in enrollment.

Pupils ended up requested to rank, in get, which component of the higher education — mission, academics, or COVID-19 guidelines — was most crucial to their conclusion to attend the modest Christian higher education.

“What we found shocked us,” Grove Town College or university President Paul McNulty instructed the Washington Examiner in an interview. “50% of our freshman class responded to this, and the a few factors that they ranked better than how we were being handling COVID were being our mission, our community, and our educational excellence.”

Grove Town Higher education, McNulty stated, is also observing an even even larger raise in applications and deposits for the freshman course of 2022, which he said implies the college has “found a way to join with potential pupils better than we potentially have prior to on our mission.”

“Our identity is resonating with these family members improved than it has prior to, and the COVID piece of it just appears to be to have served in the procedure,” McNulty said.

Denver-primarily based Colorado Christian College may well have found file enrollment in 2021, but the report freshman course of more than 500 undergraduate college students represented the end result of a decadelong craze that extended predated the coronavirus, which Vice President of Scholar Everyday living Jim McCormick credits to the university’s commitment to its conservative Christian identity.

“We are a conservative, Christ-centered schooling, interval,” McCormick advised the Washington Examiner. “We are not reasonable, we don’t wishy-washy it, [and] what we observed is that as we get additional market-oriented, our enrollment is developing.”

Developing itself as a lot more “niche-oriented” enabled CCU to independent itself from other Christian colleges that McCormick stated have misplaced their way and embraced a a lot less “Christ-centered” training.

“I actually feel that a good deal of mom and dad out there who decide that they want to pay out for Christian higher education have recognized a large amount of Christian faculties have left their moorings,” McCormick stated. “They’re not going to pay private faculty Christian instruction tuition to a college which is wandering in their mission and is not as Christ-centered as they utilised to be.”

“As we strengthened our main of who we were being, as a conservative, evangelical Christian college or university, our enrollment started to go up for the reason that the focus on market really was much more attracted to us, even nevertheless it was more compact than we experienced right before,” he ongoing. “So it can be type of exciting … you can be extra area of interest-oriented and essentially develop.”

“Area of interest-oriented” has been the mantra for many years at Franciscan College of Steubenville, a Catholic university in jap Ohio, which built nationwide headlines at the peak of the 2020 pandemic shutdowns when university President Rev. Dave Pivonka announced that new students would have their tuition waived for the drop 2020 semester.

The assure of totally free tuition assisted Franciscan University established a document for its freshman course that yr, even as other conservative spiritual colleges noticed slight dips prior to rebounding in 2021.

Whilst Franciscan’s freshman enrollment declined slightly in 2021 from its 2020 substantial, Vice President of Enrollment Solutions Joel Recznik advised the Washington Examiner that it was however considerably higher than in 2019, which he credited to a renewed emphasis on the university’s mission and special society.

“We obtain that we’re in a position to be aggressive due to the fact of our uniqueness and our one of a kind faith, lifestyle, and society on campus,” Recznik stated. “When potential pupils pay a visit to listed here, and they go to midday mass in the course of their visit day, they encounter the energetic faith lifestyle of the students and the faculty and workers.”

Franciscan’s provide of free of charge tuition for the slide 2020 semester was a important institutional economic commitment that proved emblematic of the stated dedication by several conservative Christian colleges to continue to keep tuition charges low.

But Virginia-dependent Christendom College or university and Michigan-centered Hillsdale College or university have observed the same enrollment raises as their competitors, and they claim to have pulled it off devoid of accepting any type of federal funding.

Christendom, situated in the town of Entrance Royal, Virginia, about 50 miles west of Washington, D.C., maintains an enrollment capacity of 539 students. The higher education introduced that it has had to carry out a waitlist due to surplus interest for two consecutive yrs.

Christendom Vice President of Enrollment Tom McFadden credited the greater fascination in the compact state Catholic university to its guarantee of normalcy and sanity amid an unsure and “crazy” setting.

“There’s a lot more folks checking out, and each and every time they stop by, they’re like, ‘Wow, this is a put of accurate sanity, of peace and normalcy. I can’t wait around to go here due to the fact I do not know what they are gonna do with this other university, but I know what they are going to do at Christendom,’” McFadden reported.

Although not nearly as smaller as Christendom, the Christian Hillsdale College, prolonged recognized as a bastion of conservative instruction, has viewed its own uptick in enrollment, which culminated in a 23% acceptance price for the 2021 freshman class, down from a 41% acceptance price in 2017.


The bring about? A substantial maximize in apps observed 3,398 candidates competing to fill an incoming class of 419, a variety that represented a almost 60-university student increase from the 361 students enrolled in the 2020 freshman course.

Hillsdale President Larry Arnn instructed the Washington Examiner in an interview the increase was the outcome of college students trying to get to prevent “woke college” and noticing that “college and social distancing are reverse phenomena.”

“Human beings are built for every single other,” Arnn reported, noting how so lots of schools and universities about the state failed to open for classes and isolated their college students, which he stated did not enable college students be delighted.

“You can have a pleased college if every person in it understands what they’re obtaining and values it,” Arnn reported. “Once in a although, I will get satirical and say, ‘Well, how can we fail with the competitors that we have?’”