In his recent well-crafted article, “Higher Education Seeks Answers to Leaner Years,” Jon Marcus of The Hechinger Report has provided a resonant clarion call for higher education leaders. Marcus quotes one administrator who acknowledges that, “We inherited a system largely conceived in the 1960’s … but times, society and students have all changed dramatically.” Marcus describes an industry wide seismic shift that continues and has not yet resolved.
So where this is all headed might not be apparent for quite some time. What is clear, however, is that the current model for providing education and degree qualification is facing huge decreases in demand and rising costs of doing business well above the level of inflation. Those two market keys signify that higher education is no longer viable in its current form. The question with which schools must wrestle is whether they are Blockbuster Video or Old Spice.
Blockbuster Video was entrenched in its video rental model and was late to the digital subscription market. While Netflix was skyrocketing, Blockbuster stores were closing. Old Spice, on the other hand, while remaining true to its core product, recognized it was outmoded and revamped to communicate with its next-generation market, successfully building market share. Blockbuster’s product was no longer desired in the market. Neither was Old Spice’s. Blockbuster didn’t adjust quick enough. Old Spice did.
Read Part 1.
Despite continually rising costs of accredited college education, the number of full-time ministry roles are decreasing, and financial compensation for those roles is decreasing (relative to other vocations). Many Bible colleges are seeing decreased demand for their programs due to these simple market principles. This decline manifests itself in lack of sustained revenue growth on both the tuition and advancements side: there is less money to spend on tuition for education in this sector, and there is less money being given to support this sector.
For those schools that have predominantly relied on tuition revenue, the decline is, in many cases, catastrophic. The failure in revenue growth begets a failure to reinvest for future growth and infrastructure, contributing to already inefficient cost structures. The ultimate result for these schools is a visible and measurable decline that motivates even more prospective students to either choose larger colleges who have demonstrably greater resources and stability, or to abandon ministry majors altogether.
According to ABHE’s 2015 statistical report,1 out of roughly 140 universities and colleges who have any official reported status with ABHE, there are only 5 non-denominational Bible colleges with attendance over 3202 students (including undergraduate and graduate studies): Columbia Bible College (407), College of Biblical Studies (423), Grace Bible College (883), Lancaster Bible College (1892), and Moody Bible Institute (3907).
According to ABHE’s 2011 statistical report,3 out of roughly 135 universities and colleges who have any official reported status with ABHE, there were 8 non-denominational Bible colleges with attendance over 320 students: Grace Bible College (324), Master’s College and Seminary (340), God’s Bible School and College (353), Columbia Bible College (493), College of Biblical Studies (493), Washington Bible College and Capital Bible Seminary (501), Lancaster Bible College (1189), and Moody Bible Institute (3501).
"Though the Stowell Seminary Building is on the market, Baptist Bible Seminary remains an important part of Clarks Summit University"
Some Christian institutions adopt an adversarial posture toward the mainstream culture, a “Benedict Option” of circling the wagons, because things seem to be going against them. From my vantage point, it’s the complete opposite [for Christian colleges]. 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.