In a February, 2007 Social Science Research Council paper entitled “How Corrosive Is College to Religious Faith and Practice,” social scientists Mark Regenerus and Jeremy Ueker claim that 62% of students who enter college with religious beliefs leave without them. Less often cited from the same report is that 76% of those who don’t go to college eventually begin to attend church less often, a higher percentage than those who do go to college. So while these are difficult times for young people trying to maintain their faith, a college education is not at fault. This guide will help you search for an online college education that will deepen rather than compromise your religious convictions.
History of Christian Colleges
Beginning with the 1636 founding of Harvard College, and followed shortly thereafter by such luminaries as Yale and William and Mary, America has a rich history of religiously affiliated institutions of higher learning. After the Civil War, however, with the advent of land-grant institutions and de facto public funding, secularization of many schools soon followed.
The early twentieth century saw the gradual emergence of an evangelical Bible college movement in response, as well as a significant rise in Catholic institutions. In the first half of the 20th century, 53 Catholic colleges were founded and enrollment grew from 16,000 in 1916 to 162,000 in 1940. Even more Christian colleges were founded after World War II, reaching a crescendo in the century’s latter half with the rise of high profile institutions like Oral Roberts, Bob Jones and Regent Universities, among others. Today, there are hundreds of religiously-affiliated institutions ranging in size, academic rigor and natures of religious affiliation. In a May 21, 2010 article entitled “The Best Religiously Affiliated Colleges,” Forbes Magazine found many of these school manage to maintain high standing in both spiritual and secular realms.
Why Consider Attending a Religious College Online
As an online student, even though you won’t be in the classroom or living on-campus, you are encouraged to build relationships with your professors and peers. And as a student of faith, religious colleges can give you a more balanced perspective on your academics; many secular American universities are not as “diverse” as they claim. A 2005 University of Toronto study found, on average, over half of U.S. professors never attend religious services, and at elite universities 87% of faculty describe themselves as liberal and only 12% as conservative.
While not everybody will, or should, share their religious perspective in a university setting, at many Christian colleges you will likely find more professors and peers willing to approach important issues with a shared perspective and background. Christian colleges will also offer a number of classes focused on world religions and faith, allowing you to further explore your spirituality.
Top Religious Colleges For Online Study
This selection of Protestant, Catholic, and non-denominational Christian colleges and universities not only offer a rich religious experience, but were ranked among the top 100 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News & World Report. These programs guarantee to offer the most rigorous online education available today.
- Regent University of Virginia Beach, VA was founded in 1978 as the Christian Broadcasting Network University. It is interdenominational, offering 59 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, virtually all of which can be pursued online. They include traditional disciplines, as well as majors in Christian Studies, Christian Ministry, and Biblical and Theological Studies. The school was ranked #10 for best online undergraduate program, by U.S. News & World Report.
- Graceland University of Lamoni, IA was founded in 1895 and is affiliated with the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It offers many online and hybrid undergrad degrees and was ranked as a ‘first tier’ school in the U.S. News & World Report’s America’s “Best Colleges” in 2011, 2012 and 2013, not to mention, #5 for best online undergraduate programs.
- California Baptist University of Riverside, CA was founded in 1950. It offers online undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a variety of traditional disciplines and was ranked #10 for best online undergrad program by U.S. News & World Report.
- Palm Beach Atlantic University of West Palm Beach, FL was founded in 1968. It is an interdenominational Christian university that offers fifty undergraduate majors. It began offering online courses in 2004 and features “rolling” online enrollment.
- Belhaven University of Jackson, MS was founded in 1883. It is a Presbyterian affiliated college offering a variety of traditional undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as Christian ministry. Online offerings have been available since 2005 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- Concordia University of St. Paul, MN was founded in 1893. It is a Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod affiliated college offering a variety of traditional undergraduate and graduate programs. Online offerings have been available since 1998 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- Toccoa Falls College of Taccoa Falls, GA was founded in 1907. It is a Christian and Missionary Alliance affiliated, interdenominational college that consists of three schools: Christian Ministries, Arts and Sciences, and Professional Studies. Online offerings have been available since 2005.
- Corban University of Tacoma, WA was founded in 1935 as Western Baptist Bible College. It is a Baptist affiliated college that accepts students from other evangelical denominations as long as they are willing to provide testimony of their saving relationship with Jesus Christ. All classes are taught from a Biblical perspective. Online offerings have been available since 1997, and the application deadline is July 30.
- Grand Canyon University of Phoenix, AZ was founded in 1949. It is affiliated with the Arizona Southern Baptists and offers a variety of traditional undergraduate and graduate degrees in addition to Christian studies and theology. Online offerings have been available since 2003 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- Sterling College of Sterling, KS was founded in 1887 by the Synod of Kansas United Presbyterian Church of North America. It offers a variety of traditional undergraduate and graduate degrees in addition to Biblical studies. Online offerings have been available since 2007 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- St. John’s University of New York, NY was founded by the Vincentian Fathers in 1870. It is organized into five undergraduate and six graduate schools offering a variety of traditional majors. This excellent school was ranked #3 for best online undergrad programs by U.S. News & World Report.
- St. Mary’s College of Oakland, California was founded in 1863. It is administered by the De La Salle Christian Brothers and organized into four schools offering a variety of traditional undergraduate and graduate degree programs in addition to extensive course offerings in Christian thought. Online offerings have been available since 2009 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- The University of St. Francis of Joliet, IL was founded in 1920 by the Congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate. It offers a variety of traditional undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Online offerings have been available since 1999 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- University of the Incarnate Word of St. Antonio, TX was founded in 1881 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. It offers a variety of traditional majors with special emphasis on health care and the sciences. Charity volunteer hours are also required of students in order to graduate. Online offerings have been available since 2000 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- St. Leo University of St. Leo, FL was founded in 1889. It is associated with the Benedictine Holy Name Monastery and Saint Leo Abbey. They offer a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees to over fifteen thousand students, the majority of whom are military related. Online offerings have been available since 1999 and are geared for adult learners and military personnel.
- Madonna University of Livonia, MI was founded in 1937 by the Felician Sisters. It offers more than one hundred undergraduate and thirty-five master’s degree programs in a variety of traditional disciplines. Online bachelor’s degree offerings have been available since 1997 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- St Joseph’s University of Philadelphia, PA was founded in 1851 by the Society of Jesus. It is a Jesuit institution that offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a variety of traditional disciplines. Online bachelor’s degree offerings have been available since 2010 and feature “rolling” enrolment.
- Benedictine University of Lisle, IL was founded in 1887 by Benedictine monks and originally known as St. Procopius College. It offers fifty-six undergraduate and twelve graduate programs in a variety of traditional disciplines. Online offerings have been available since 2010 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- Regis University of Denver, CO was founded in 1877 by the Society of Jesus. It is a Jesuit institution that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of traditional disciplines. Online offerings have been available since 1997 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
- St. Mary-of-the-Woods College of Terre Haute, IN was founded in 1841 by the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods. It is a devout pacifist institution with a “General Studies” curriculum that is divided into five parts, each of which requires Theology and Philosophy for successful completion. Online offerings have been available since 1993 and feature “rolling” enrollment.
Quality religious education is certainly available online through a variety of institutions dedicated to the welfare and betterment of students. With interactive social media and ever more sophisticated online teaching tools, these schools all manage to provide excellent and reputable online degrees, all the while giving you the opportunity to interact freely with students of similar beliefs and convictions, thus providing all the benefits of a traditional campus community.