How Today’s Christian High School is Like Yesterday’s Christian College

Implications for the Future of Christian Education

Maybe, as a school leader, you have heard that what happens at the college level often impacts our high schools.

Recently, Ryan Bredow of Grand Canyon University proposed the idea that today’s Christian high school is like yesterday’s Christian college. I reflected on this and then considered the implications. Here are some thoughts—please share yours.

For example, Christian Colleges have developed robust admissions and development departments. They did this out of need for students and gifts. More recently, thriving Christian high schools have launched sophisticated admissions and development departments. Those departments would have been a rarity in schools just 50 years ago (that would be around 1970 if you can believe it!). While endowments have existed at colleges for a while, recently Christian high schools have launched endowment funds.

We have also all witnessed the rise—and even professionalism—of college sports during our lives. We now see Christian high school leaders investing serious money and time into success with sports. Those leaders work hard to keep the role of sports in perspective and even Christian.

Another parallel between the Christian college and the Christian high school has to do with the competition faced for students. New options for college attract some students that might have chosen a Christian college in the past. The rise in the number of home school, online, and charter school students has also impacted the Christian high school.

Of course, we must also talk about the financial parallels between the two types of schools.

The cost of both the Christian college and high school has increased dramatically. This is despite the fact that both the college and then the high school often cut programs to the bone and have sought alternative revenue sources. Middle-class families may have always had a hard time paying for/qualifying for financial aid at a Christian college. Recently, Christian school leaders have noted they can find money to help the disadvantaged and there is a group with no need for financial aid. But the middle-class family is slowly disappearing from many Christian high schools.

Before we consider the implications of these parallels, we could discuss the similarities in the changes in facilities, food service, staffing, and other features. However, one parallel that gives us a sense of urgency has to do with the number of school closings. “In the wake of a recent series of small-college closings, the takeaway for small private colleges is that their days may be numbered.”[i] Similar closings are happening and being considered at the Christian high school level. We believe that there will always be Christian colleges and high schools that thrive, but they will have to innovate and change. “In the 21st century, ISM expects successful private-independent schools to make radical changes in both structure and function in order to achieve and sustain stability and excellence.”[ii]

Implications

  1. The Thriving Christian College has Innovated and Diversified
    They have realized that they must offer options and not require everyone to have the same timetable, degree path, or tuition price point. The Christian high school must do the same.
  2. The Successful Christian College and High School of the Future Will Use Technology to Accomplish Their Mission
    Schools like Liberty University, Grand Canyon University, and Indiana Wesleyan University have over three times the number of online students as they do campus-based students. Most of the revenue (and even profit if we can use that word) comes from the online market.
  3. The Staffing Model Has Changed at the College Level
    Often there are five to ten times as many adjunct professors as full-time professors. Is there a way Christian high schools can maintain quality and community, but change to a sustainable total for personnel?
  4. A New Teaching Model Has Emerged (related to implication # 1)
    Online education has allowed Christian colleges to truly diversify and personalize education. The universities mentioned now serve students from a broader ethnic, financial, academic, and even spiritual background than ever before. They still hold to a mission statement that is thoroughly Christian. But now they reach more people. Could Christian high schools do this too? Could your school?

Matt Lucas, Chancellor at Indiana Wesleyan University quoted Publilius Syrus who wrote: “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.[i]” He went on to note that higher education used to be much easier to navigate. Maybe you feel this way about your high school. But he then encouraged his team by saying: “God is leading us into some uncharted waters, and I am looking forward to what we will discover.” Could these lines apply to a Christian High School?

May we help you strategize and develop an online model that works in your setting?

A PDF version of this article is also available for your reference:

Author

Dr. R. Mark Beadle, CEO and Head of School, Sevenstar

Sevenstar is a leading provider of online education solutions to Christian schools. We empower Christian schools around the globe with technology, biblically-integrated curriculum, and subject-certified Christian instructors for each course. Schools may choose to enroll students directly into online courses or become a partner to create their own online learning program.

Follow Dr. Beadle on Twitter: @markbeadle7

May we help you strategize and develop an online model that works in your setting?

References

[i] How Online Can Save Small, Private Colleges from Going Under

[ii] Independent School Management. 2012. ISM theory for consortium members.

[iii] https://www.quotes.net/quote/4300