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The Value of Christian Colleges and 7 Ways to Choose Between Them
January 18, 2021
There are few decisions in life that make a bigger impact on your future than where to go to college. If you’re drawn to Christian colleges, you at least have some idea of the experience you want. The next step is to figure out where you’ll find the best value.
But what exactly does “value” mean?
You’re not shopping for a new car. You’re planning to embark on a life-changing experience. Still, it’s fair to ask about what you can expect to receive in return for one of the biggest investments of time and money you’ll ever make.
Are Christian Colleges “Worth It?”
One of the most pervasive myths about Christian colleges is that they are expensive. If that were true, attending a Christian school would be an either/or proposition. Either you spend a lot of money to go where you want to, or you spend less and sacrifice the experience you want.
But while you do have an either/or choice to make, it actually has little to do with cost.
Public vs. Private
Not all private colleges are Christian, of course. But to be an institution that is based on the Christian faith, it can’t be funded by public institutions. Public schools get financial help from the government. Private schools don’t.
That leads many to believe that going to a public school automatically means the tuition they pay will be lower than it would be at a private school. The truth isn’t that clear-cut.
It Is a Dividing Line, Just Not a Financial One
Tuition for private schools can actually be anywhere on the spectrum – much lower than most public schools or much higher.
So the question isn’t really whether private Christian colleges are worth the cost, which varies a lot. It’s more about whether you prefer a Christian environment to a secular one.
Christian Colleges: 7 Factors to Consider
Beyond that, there’s still a lot to consider when choosing among Christian colleges. Here are seven things to think about, including a comparison of affordability between them and how to get an idea of the actual cost.
The number of students on campus, the number in each classroom and the physical size of the campus all have an effect on the experience.
Some students like a big school where they can go with the flow, while others like smaller schools where it’s easier to get to know people and there are more opportunities to stand out.
You might be fine in large lecture halls where you learn alongside a hundred or more students, or you may prefer a more intimate setting where the instructor is more likely to know who you are.
Christian colleges do tend to be on the smaller side. But there is still plenty of variation in class and campus size.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to the school’s location.
- Do you prefer staying close to home or getting out to explore a new place?
- Which regions are you attracted to, for natural resources or culture?
- How urban or rural is your ideal place to live while you’re on campus?
For many traditional students (around 18 years old, just out of high school), this is their first opportunity to decide what life is going to look like.
You may dream of living on the west coast, in the mountains, in the open spaces of the plains regions or down in the hot south. ENC students are drawn here because it’s near Boston, features New England culture, nearby beaches, woods and other natural resources.
Christian colleges are everywhere. College life can vary a lot depending on where you go.
3. Religious Tradition
There may be a lot to think about here, depending on how important tradition is to you and your family. The most obvious differences in Christian tradition would be between formerly Catholic and more broadly Christian colleges (including Protestant traditions). If you’re not Catholic, the presentation of Catholic doctrine might feel awkward.
Many denominations may be represented under this umbrella – Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, etc. Even those that are officially non-denominational tend to be influenced by the same schools of thought on which the major denominations are built.
Even within a denomination, there can be many differences between colleges affiliated with it. Some are focused on discipleship, helping Christians become more mature in their faith. Others are more evangelistic, welcoming both Christians and non-Christians who are open to a presentation of biblical ideas.
ENC is affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene. Like many other colleges that come from this tradition, you might say we’re somewhere in the middle. Students here come from a variety of religious backgrounds. There are pressure-free opportunities here to explore Christianity or to deepen your Christian faith. The choice is yours.
4. Campus Culture
This may seem like the same point as religious affiliation, but culture is a little different. It’s how the beliefs and traditions on which the college was built play out in daily life.
One of the most attractive aspects of Christian college culture is the promotion of truly holistic wellness, which discourages certain unhealthy behaviors. It’s the opposite of party culture. You’re less likely to be distracted by peers engaging in sexual activity, drugs, alcohol, etc.
What replaces party culture is the pursuit of spiritual wellness. You can expect a culture that encourages healthy relationships, personal growth, and mutual support among peers.
Of course, Christian colleges each have different approaches to building and maintaining this culture. This is pretty nuanced. It will likely take a visit to campus and conversations with students, faculty and others to get a sense of whether it feels like a good fit for you.
5. Academic Focus
What do you want to do with your life after graduation? Christian colleges are diverse enough to support any path you feel called to pursue.
Christian schools tend to be liberal arts institutions, which means they provide a broad base of knowledge and experience to prepare you for life. But some schools focus more on certain academic areas than others.
For example, you may be very serious about professional ministry. You might choose a school where the majority of your peers are going into ministry also. Some schools have more programs in the sciences. Others are known for their arts programs.
ENC is an example of a very broad-based liberal arts college. It’s the type of school where you benefit from a lot of diversity of academic interests among students and can likely find a program that matches your career goals.
6. Student Life Opportunities
Another area where there is a lot of variety between Christian colleges is in the clubs and student organizations on campus.
“ENC has helped transform my life by showing me how much of a servant leader I can be. I also chose to come to ENC because of the location in Massachusetts, how cool it is to be so close to Boston. It really feels like a second home to me.” – Stephanie MacFarland, Business Management Major and Vice President of SGA, 2020-21
On some campuses, the scope of student life is focused almost entirely on Christian activities: ministry, discipleship, Bible study, worship. On others, you might find mostly the same types of organizations you would find on a secular campus.
All you have to decide is whether the school you’re considering has organizations that match your interests. At ENC, we have a wide variety of groups. Some appeal to students interested in Christian growth. Many have goals that anyone might share regardless of religious background.
Types of groups include:
- Academic clubs (e.g. Business Society, History Club)
- Athletic clubs (e.g. Taekwondo, Fellowship of Christian Athletes)
- Cultural identity (e.g. Black Student Union, International Students Organization)
- Governance (e.g. Student Government Association)
- Spiritual development
- Arts and music
While organizations at ENC aren’t all “Christian clubs” per se, they all operate within the positive culture you come to Christian colleges to find.
Once you’ve started to narrow down your options between Christian colleges, you should certainly take cost into account.
But what’s important to understand is that tuition and what you actually pay are almost never the same number. That’s because private colleges (Christian colleges among them) often offer a lot of different scholarships, grants and lots of other financial aid help to bring down your cost.
You’ll want to take a close look at what your Christian college of choice has to offer and try to figure out what your actual cost (how much you’ll need to either pay or borrow) will be.
Some schools have a net price calculator you may find useful. But to get a solid figure, you’ll need to meet with an admissions counselor.
Eastern Nazarene College: A Strong Choice Among Christian Colleges in New England
We could tell you that Christian Universities Online has named us one of the top 50 best value Christian colleges and universities. We could point out that Study.com names us among the top Christian colleges in New England, too.
But what really matters is whether the value we bring matches what you’re looking for.
- An intimate community of around 600 undergraduate students,
- Located in Quincy, MA, a suburb of Boston,
- Founded on the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition of the Church of the Nazarene,
- Creating a positive, supportive campus culture that promotes wellness for all,
- With a variety of academic programs to provide a broad liberal arts experience,
- Plenty of opportunities to engage in vibrant student life,
- At a tuition level that is among the most affordable in New England.
That’s what you’ll ENCounter here. Learn more about Eastern Nazarene College.