Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christian Colleges Cutting Tuition By Double Digit Percentages to Attract New Students

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- With church membership dwindling and more families struggling to afford the cost of college, many private religiously-affiliated colleges and universities are slashing tuition and offering incentives to attract new students -- and to stay afloat.

Some Christian colleges are cutting tuition by double-digit percentages, while others are capping the price of admission for all four years or offering huge discounts based on academic performance.

Brewton-Parker College, a 4-year Bible study school in southeast Georgia, cut its tuition by 22% to $12,290 a year for the current school year to "to offer a quality Christian education to more students." Enrollment has fallen to 778 students in recent years. The school wouldn't say how high enrollment was in the past, but things are looking dire.

To afford the tuition cuts, the college has had to make sizable cost cuts, including reducing its workweek to four days from five in order to save on operations and staffing.

"Brewton-Parker, like many other Christian-affiliated schools, is private and we have to have new students coming in," college president Mike Simoneaux said. "We recognize that in order to stay competitive we had to find ways to lower our tuition and not our quality."

5 colleges slashing tuition

It's a trend seen among religiously-affiliated colleges across the nation, both big and small. Duquesne University, the largest Catholic university in Pennsylvania with 5,858 undergraduates, is reducing tuition by 50% for students who enroll in its School of Education in 2012. Seton Hall University, a 4-year private Catholic school in South Orange, N.J., is chopping tuition by 61% for applicants who meet certain academic qualifications. And Cabrini College, another Catholic school in Pennsylvania, plans to cut tuition by 12.5% next year and cap it at that level through 2014.

Of the more than 1,600 small private nonprofit institutions for higher education in the United States (which have an average enrollment of 1,900 students), two-thirds have a faith or religious affiliation, many of which are linked to Christian denominations. And while the economy is affecting most schools of this size, faith-based institutions are in the toughest spot.

By keeping tuition as low as possible -- with some schools reducing the amount of financial aid they are doling out at the same time to make this possible -- these schools are taking potential hits to profits as they try to enroll more students, said John Nelson, a managing director at Moody's, which rates the credit worthiness of universities.

One of the biggest issues facing these schools is their value proposition. Some incoming students fear their job and/or earning prospects will be limited should they graduate from a religiously-affiliated school.

In order to appeal to a wider group of students, many of these institutions are removing the "Christian" or "Bible" from their names. Johnson Bible College, in Knoxville, Tenn., for example, changed its name to "Johnson University" earlier this year to "eliminate barriers that our students and graduates often face," the college's president Gary Weedman said in a statement on the school's website.

Meanwhile, other schools are trying to make it easier for students to pursue lower-paying religiously-affiliated vocations post-graduation without being weighed down by student loans.

Davis College, an evangelical Christian school founded in 1900, said it recently reduced tuition for the current year by up to 22% for this reason.

"As a college of Bible and ministry, our niche is preparing students for service vocations that are often in the lower pay range," said Chief Enrollment Officer Rick Cramer. "We were disturbed to find that some of our graduates were not going directly into ministry simply because they felt the need to pay off their loans first."

Cramer said the tuition cut has helped the school retain current students. Now he's hoping it will significantly boost enrollment -- and help the school avoid the same fate as other Bible colleges that have been forced to close their doors.

"We need to attract more incoming students into that ministry development pipeline so that we can continue to impact the world for another 100 years," he said.

Recent tuition cuts have not only been limited to Christian schools. Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid, a Jewish rabbinical school in Far Rockaway, N.Y., slashed tuition by more than 20% for the current school year, while Rabbinical College of Telshe, in Wickliffe, Ohio, cut tuition about 7% for the previous school year, according to the most recent data the colleges reported to College Board.

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California City Drops Case Against Couple For Holding Bible Studies in Their Home

A legal analyst says it was "wise" for a California city to drop a citation filed against a couple for hosting a home Bible study.

The city of San Juan Capistrano dismissed its citation against a local couple who held a growing Bible study in their home. Because of complaints from the neighbors, the city initially fined Chuck and Stephanie Fromm $300 for holding the session. Officials had also noted that the couple needed a conditional use permit to hold the gatherings, and they threatened to fine the Fromms $500 per meeting if they continued. So, the pair filed a lawsuit against San Juan Capistrano following an appeal to the city, which was rejected (see earlier story).

Ken Klukowski, fellow and senior legal analyst with The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), believes the city ultimately made the right decision.

"The city was wise to rescind that citation because otherwise it would have gone to court, and the city would have been beaten badly in court," he suggests.

The Associated Press reports that the city is currently reviewing how its land-use codes apply to churches, but Klukowski tells OneNewsNow the latest move sets an example for future incidents.

"I think it is certainly a political precedent on behalf of the public officials leading the city, that they understand that pursuing families for having a Bible study in their own home is not very wise policy," the attorney concludes.

Read More From One News Now

Tyler Perry Writes Letter To Penn State Victim Who Was Molested

Tyler Perry was touched by the Penn State molestation scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, and decided to write an open letter to the victim who came forth about being molested at the age of 11.

Perry, writer, actor, director and producer, opened up about being molested as a child. He called the victim courageous for doing the same.

“To think that you, when you were only 11 years old, spoke up – you are my hero,” Perry wrote in a letter that was published in Newsweek. “I’m so proud of you. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I want you to know you didn’t do anything wrong.”

Sandusky was charged earlier this month for sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period. A grand jury investigation suggested that he used his position as the founder of The Second Mile, a foster home designed to help troubled boys, to choose the victims.

Sandusky’s lawyer, Joe Amendola, insists that the case against his client is hearsay. On Monday, Amendola also announced that they are conducting their own private investigation to prove he is innocent.

Nevertheless, Perry – known for his character “Madea” in his stage plays – called Sandusky a monster and assured the victim that he was not to blame for the situation that has led to the overhaul of the Penn State administration.

“Please know that you were chosen by a monster. You didn’t choose him,” Perry wrote. “You didn’t ask for it and, most of all, you didn’t deserve it. What a huge lesson that was for me to learn.”

In the letter, Perry also chastised the Penn State staff who did not speak up for Sandusky’s victims.

“Do you know that at the young age of 11 you had more courage than all the adults who let you down? All of the ones who didn’t go to the proper authorities, all of the ones who were worried about their careers, reputations, or livelihoods,” Perry wrote. “I wonder what they would have done if it were their own child.”

The actor opened up about his abuse last year while on the “Oprah” show. He told Oprah Winfrey that he felt like he died as a child after suffering physical abuse from his father and sexual abuse from several other adults.

He credited his mother and God for helping him survive.

Read More From Christian Post

LGBT Groups To Boycott Salvation Army Kettle Campaign This Christmas Season

The Salvation Army red kettles that sit outside storefronts during the Christmas season are causing some gay groups to see red. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) activists are calling for a boycott of the Salvation Army’s annual red kettle drive because of its stance on homosexuality.

Bil Browning, writing on the LGBQT blog The Bilerico Project, said, “As the holidays approach, the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in front of stores dunning shoppers for donations. If you care about gay rights, you'll skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn't actively discriminate against the LGBT community. The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook page called “Boycott The Salvation Army” now has over 2,000 likes. The description of the page reads, “The Salvation Army is not only a charity, but an evangelical church promoting conservative Christianity and anti-gay politics.”

But Maj. George Hood, national community relations secretary for the Salvation Army, addressed the LGBT groups’ accusations of discrimination. He said the disagreement between the Salvation Army and gay activist groups comes down to theology.

“The Salvation Army and the gay community are never going to come to an agreement on the topic,” Hood told The Christian Post on Monday.

He went on to say that the Salvation Army will not change its beliefs about theological issues any more than gay groups would change their views.

Andy Thayer, co-founder of Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network, explained to The Christian Post in an email today why his group was participating in the boycott. "We urge people to boycott the Salvation Army and instead give to non-sectarian agencies because it uses its selective interpretation of the Bible to promote discrimination against LGBT people in employment benefits and leadership positions within the Army,” he wrote.

The Salvation Army’s stance on homosexuality is stated on its website. It says the group holds a positive view of human sexuality: “Sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage. However, in the Christian view, sexual intimacy is not essential to a healthy, full, and rich life. Apart from marriage, the scriptural standard is celibacy.”

While the Salvation Army as a church does have strong theological beliefs about homosexuality, its main focus as described in its mission statement is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

Hood pointed out that LGBT groups have boycotted the Christian charity nearly annually in recent years, but they have not had a significant impact on giving in previous years. He said in the past two to three years, the organization actually broke records during their red kettle drive. Last year, Salvation Army raised $142 million, which “was a 5 percent increase over the previous year.”

In the end, Hood said, it’s unfortunate that there is a boycott because it’s not the Salvation Army that will be hurt, but “it’s the people we serve,” including many from the gay community.

Read More From Christian Post