The Declining Humanities at Christian Colleges: Some Statistics

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As many of you know, last week I argued in a syndicated Religion News Service piece that the humanities were in decline at Christian colleges. I also suggested that this may be a long-term explanation for why evangelical Christian leaders who are surprised that their people are supporting Donald Trump are “reaping what they’ve sown.”

My suggestion that the humanities are in decline came largely from anecdotal evidence, my own experience at Messiah College, and an informal and unscientific survey of Christian college history departments that I took several years ago.

My friend and colleague Chris Gehrz, the chair of the history department at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, decided to see if my anecdotal evidence was actually backed-up by facts. He thus turned to the National Center for Education Statistics for schools affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

Here is what he concluded at his blog The Pietist Schoolman:

I think there’s enough evidence here to support a modified version of John’s basic claim:

The humanities, never especially strong on evangelical colleges, have been losing ground for at least a decade, nowhere faster than in schools where they once had relative strength.

Next time, I want to ask (briefly) what accounts for this change — and then to offer my own variation on John’s actual argument: that the decline of the humanities speaks to larger problems for Christian colleges and their evangelical constituencies.

I am looking forward to the next post.  In the meantime, check out the entire post at Pietist Schoolman.  If you are concerned about humanities at Christian colleges, this is a must read.

I did not get a chance to spend much time with these statistics, but I did take notice of which schools in the CCCU had the highest percentage of students majoring in traditional humanities fields (English, philosophy, literature). As I argued in this post, a healthy dose of humanities majors on a particular campus might lead to a different kind of campus culture than a campus loaded with students pursuing professional degrees.

Based on Gerhz’s spreadsheet (linked in his post) here are the schools with the highest percentage of students majoring in the humanities in 2014:

  1.  Covenant College–22.5%
  2.  Judson College–20.0%
  3.  Westmont College–16.2%
  4. Gordon College–16.1%
  5. Regent University–16.0%
  6. Wheaton College–14.7%
  7. Whitworth College–14.4%
  8. Anderson College (SC)-12.2%
  9. William Jessup College–11.6%
  10. Erskine College–10.7%

Here are the campuses in which the humanities are declining most rapidly:

  1. North Greenville University
  2. Asbury University
  3. King University
  4. Sterling College
  5. Houghton College
  6. Gordon College
  7. Evangelical University
  8. Trevecca Nazarene University
  9. Olivet Nazarene University
  10. East Texas Baptist University

The student bodies at these schools are made up of about one-third nursing majors:  King University, Mid-America Nazarene University, Roberts Wesleyan, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Eastern Mennonite University, Indiana Weslyan University

The student bodies at these schools are made up about one-third business majors: King University, Eastern Nazarene University, Bryan College, Montreat College, Trevecca Nazarene University, Belhaven University, Mid-America Nazarene University, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Nyack College, Oklahoma Wesleyan, York University, Bluffton College, Cornerstone University, Bluefield College, Colorado Christian University, Simpson University, John Brown University, Judson University, Southern Nazarene University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Faulkner University, LeTourneau University, Warner University.

I encourage you to dig into Gehrz’s stats and make your own observations.