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The Future of Christian Higher Education: A Political Economy Analysis

Denise Daniels, Caleb Henry, Bradley Jensen Murg


The challenges confronting today’s faith-based schools, while similar to those that their now-secular predecessors faced, have evolved in a new direction. Historically, Christian scholars worried about the dangers of religious schools becoming secular and indistinguishable from state universities. While some Christian colleges and universities today continue a gradual drift towards secularization, others, structured by deeply ingrained norms of “mission,” are increasingly tempted to redefine their faith with respect to cultural referents instead of long-standing Christian orthodoxy. When such an approach is taken to its logical extreme these religious schools may become less tolerant of religiously faithful students than is constitutionally possible for state institutions. We use a neo-institutional model of change to explain why and how this occurs, and offer ways that Christian colleges and universities might retain their identity and thrive in the changing higher education landscape.

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