Christian Education: Cost vs. Pay-off at Trinity International University

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Craig Williford, Trinity International University president discusses the costs of a Christian education

As students search for the right online Christian degree programs to advance their education, they may find themselves wondering why some faith-based schools cost more than public institutions and/or community colleges. In a recent Trinity Magazine interview, Craig Williford Trinity International University (TIU) president, sheds some light.

Cost differences explained

To start, Williford clarifies the cost of a Christian education actually falls in the middle between state and public institutions on the lower end, and private educations on the high end. Reasons for this include federal funding for public programs that Christian programs do not qualify for; and economies of scale – public schools can generally reduce their cost per student by increasing their class sizes and use of facilities. Christian universities, on the other hand, tend to have smaller, more desirable student-to-faculty ratios.

In a recent study of Christian College Consortium schools, nine out of 13 have higher tuition rates than TIU. A top motivator for TIU to keep tuition down is directly related to the school’s mission to educate those who may not be able to afford a private Christian liberal arts education. This institutional value is a calling for the sake of Christ’s kingdom in this world.

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How does TIU help make education affordable?

The Trinity Fund is a major way the school is able to reduce the cost of education for students who are the most capable, deserving and have the greatest financial need. The fund is comprised of yearly contributions from individuals and churches from the TIU community.

Scholarships. For the 2010-11 academic year TIU distributed over $10 million in scholarships to students in addition to external scholarship sources.

TIU has great community support from alumni, parents, friends and churches. Financial support from these community resources allows TIU to state up-to-date with buildings, technology and infrastructure without burdening the students.

And as of spring 2012, TIU has five fully endowed chairs (positions supported by endowment funds) that underwrite expenses related to these key positions, says Williford.

Benefits of a Christian education

Christian students today must be aware that Christianity is a matter of identity — who they are in Christ. The opportunities deliberately provided by a Christian education play a huge role in developing ethics, integrity and humility in everyday life as well as in the work force. Students are driven to explore subject matter from biblical-theological perspectives, challenging them in a way that builds faith and how it relates to their chosen profession, according to Williford.

Although TIU strives to compensate faculty on a competitive level, these educators choose to serve rather than take positions at non-faith-based institutions where they may receive higher wages. This speaks to the faculty’s dedication to prepare students to engage in God’s redemptive work.

Important factors in the future of higher education

Over the past 20 years researchers have noted the large and increasing number of students choosing non-traditional approaches to learning. A contributing factor to this is a statistical fact that adult student (older than 25) enrollment is on the rise. According to Frederick Hess in a recent Atlantic article, only 15 percent of the 17.6 million college undergraduates fit the category of traditional residential student.

Recognizing this market need, TIU reaches this growing population of students through online degree programs designed to fit the needs of busy working adults.

Source: Jumping the Hurdle: Obstacles to Christian Higher Education, Trinity Magazine, Spring 2012

Source: Old School: College’s Most Important Trend, The Atlantic, Sept. 2011