Athanasius College: an alternative to old schools' hyperinflated tuition...

It is time to apply for college. We want readers of Baylyblog to consider one new option, Athanasius College. While developing the program over the past two years, our commitments have been simple: to get back to traditional, orthodox Christian foundations in every aspect of our lives, including especially education.

Recently, we finalized tuition fees for our inaugural year and have released them here. They are affordable: $8,000 for a full-time student expecting to enroll in 12 to 18 hours, with additional rates starting at $500 a year for courses taken at IU. Students will not be eligible for federal funding—we’d have to be accredited for that. Instead, we expect them to make up the cost through summer and part-time jobs or other means.

The problem

In today’s higher education market, our price makes a difference. Here are a series of charts showing the scandal of the financial costs and benefits of higher education today. Take a look  at them.

Students can attend Athanasius College without burdening their future and their families with insurmountable debt. For most students, such debt has simply become the norm. According to a recent series of posts by the New York Times the average undergraduate debt now approaches $25,000, an average that does not take into account the cost of professional or graduate degrees, whose prices often soar past six digits. And, according to the same report, 9 percent of borrowers will have defaulted on these loans by the end of this year.

Tuition underlies this crisis. Harvard now charges $38,840 just for tuition, and the tuition charged by Christian colleges is not far behind. Here's a list of what various Christian colleges charge... just for tuition:

  • $26,000: Calvin College
  • $27,000: Covenant College
  • $23,000: Geneva College
  • $37,000: Gordon College
  • $14,000: Grove City College
  • $22,000: Hillsdale College
  • $28,000: Messiah College
  • $28,000: Taylor University 
  • $27,000: The Masters College
  • $37,000: Westmont College
  • $30,000: Wheaton College

If the current trend of hyperinflated tuition charges continues, the cost will have doubled by 2016. College tuition far outruns inflation, creating a market where value no longer is commensurate with the price tag.

Playing the role of over-eager mortgage lenders, admissions counselors and college marketing teams play make-believe, promising jobs and benefits outweighing the risks of default and ruined credit. Students can defer payment until after graduation, and most don’t have the wisdom or experience to weigh what that commitment will mean in 4 to 8 years. So debt skyrockets, with 902 billion dollars in federal loans remaining unpaid as of the writing of the New York Times articles. In inverse relation to these skyrocketing loans is a dying job market where graduating students, burdened with debt, are faced with career prospects that simply will not cover their needs.

The New York Times’ answer to the crisis: implicitly blame debt collectors, an unforgiving conservative government, and college presidents. If Wall Street played the enemy in the recession, by analogy, the rich and those with power are to blame here. Complain until the government forgives the debt. Provide fodder for the now defunct Occupy Wall Street movement to raise its passive-aggressive head and whine.

What is our solution? Be forthright about prices, keeping them low enough so students can come to learn and graduate to live wise and godly lives. We are convinced we should train our highschoolers not to equate educational value with a high price tag, that we should teach ourselves that Harvard and Wheaton's education may not be worth their salt, and that we should all look for colleges trying to gain prestige, not through cost but what they do. What they teach and how their graduates think and live.

We must help our young men and women understand what they are buying when they look for a college. Yes, their education should prepare them for a career. Men need to be competent and able to provide for a family. But more than this, we want them searching for colleges that place Godly wisdom over vocational training and prestige. What good is it if we encourage our highschoolers to care about a career and success so much that they end up buying an education that destroys their faith? What help is it to push our sons and daughters into crippling debt and a terminal cancer of doubts and material pursuits eating away at their soul?

A hopeful, faithful answer

At Athanasius College, we will inoculate students against this cancer by sending them to IU, Bloomington, while holding them accountable to be bold and faithful witnesses on campus. We don’t expect 18 year olds to be fully prepared for such hard work. Instead, we will train them for the fight. Too often we expect young, impressionable souls to continue in the faith while immersed in a culture that despises everything they believe. Naively,  we think our children won't be wooed by wicked professors and that they won't have to struggle against the temptations of this world. The results? Hypocrisy, as students wear one face at church and home and another at college or university; then, eventually, apostasy. I have seen this enough times, in others and my own heart to assure you this is the number one danger your young college student will face--no matter how well you have trained them at home.

And the older women, elders, and pastors here at Athanasius will give you accounts of the apostasy of children who arrived here in Bloomington bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from their Christian home, but within a year or two turned their back on the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.

Yes, we have an excellent campus ministry and a student-friendly church, and these are a large part of the answer. But it has become increasingly clear to us that, as John Cardinal Newman said in The Idea of a University, the queen of the sciences is theology and a university without theology is like a body without a head.

We believe students should be taught to hold tightly to the Apostolic traditions while they study subjects not a part of the Apostolic traditions. And for reasons we won't go into here, we're convinced the study of the Apostolic traditions is best done alongside, and in combination with, a major secular research university. It shouldn't be set apart in the cornfields of Upland and Hillsdale, the strip malls of Grand Rapids, the outlet mall of Grove City, the bluebloods of Wenham, the nouveau riche of Santa Barbara, or the buildings lining the Chicago & Northwestern tracks in Wheaton.

We believe our children are best served by studying theology--the teaching of the Apostles--while they are immersed in the fight. Think of us as Athansius College of Indiana Unversity with two differences: there are no formal ties between Athanasius and IU, and IU is no Cambridge University. 

This is our vision, but we know the blight debt can be, so we've worked hard to keep tuition as low as possible so our students can afford an education that will profit both their souls and their minds.

We will not compromise our high academic standards. The program of study here at Athanasius College will be rigorous. We are committed to preparing our students for a vocation (you can read about it here, here, and here). Intellectual quality is not the issue. Students with unaccredited degrees can easily get into graduate school and land solid jobs. They will have no problem getting into medical school, law school, and the trade of their choice with an Athanasius College liberal arts degree. Some businesses are even favoring these students because they can actually think and write.

The secret is finally coming out: cost is no indication of educational value. Harvard and Yale are expensive, and other colleges coveting a similar reputation raise their prices thinking this will help parents think of them as Harvard and Yale's kissing cousins. Having to pay more money leads parents and students to think that money will get them better professors and the best resources. But in today’s academic environment, parents footing the bill should be stopping to ask who, exactly, they are paying so much to teach their sons and daughters? If they're paying so much to these men and women to profess, they should ask what exactly these men and women are professing?

Very often the answer is professors profess damnable lies.

By God's grace, our profs will profess wisdom and truth.

And if you are wondering whether, at this price, our faculty have merit; if your money will buy your student a worthwhile education; the answer is yes. First, our faculty will have credentials. They will have Harvard and research-one institution backed degrees. They will be proven teachers. Second, they will be scrutinized for spiritual and character qualifications by a Board of Trustees appointed by Clearnote Fellowship.

We will strive to discipline and admonish and exhort our students as they learn to fight the good fight. We will pray for them and do everything in our power to guard their souls.

All the money in the world will not buy you that from Yale.

If you are interested in this sort of education for your son or daughter or know others you think would benefit from knowing about us, an application for matriculation Fall of 2013 is available here.

Finally, we have a special request for all Baylyblog readers: would you please pray for our efforts?

Thank you.

Brandon Chasteen

Brandon came to Bloomington in 2007 to pursue graduate studies in English Literature at Indiana University. Brandon currently serves as Vice President of Athanasius College, as well as teaches rhetoric to the high school students at the Bloomington Christian Schoolhouse. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, writing short stories, and barbecuing briskets in the proud tradition of his home state, Texas.

Comments

My oldest is four years away from college, but I will be considering this.  And praying for it.

We are also four years from beginning the college adventure. This is a very exciting option!

That is wonderful to read.  I'm a decade away from such worries but it sounds like a wonderful option.  We'll try to pray for you.

Brothers, you will have my prayers and possibly in a few years my sons. 

I have a ten year old daughter. I've already emailed this page to my wife! Praise God for this!

I certainly wish you well on getting this college up and running.

On the other hand, parents considering college should realize that the stated tuition does not reflect the cost of going to school. This is particularly the case for very heavily endowed schools. For example, Princeton University meets all financial aid with grants that do not need to be paid back and on-campus jobs. Unlike the national adverages, students should graduate with zero student debt. Students at Princeton whose parents make less than $120,000 per year receive free tuition plus some help toward room and board. Students whose parents make less than $60,000 per year receive grants to cover 100% of tuition and 100% of room and board. In fact, even students whose parents make $200,000 per year receive more than half the cost of tuition in financial aid.

You can find out more here: http://www.princeton.edu/admission/financialaid/how_it_works/who_qualifies/

The truth is that it may be far less expensive to go to an elite school with an outrageous stated tuition than it is would be to go to a school designed to be inexpensive. It is good to find out the facts before making a decision.

My Alma Mater, the U.S. Naval Academy, actually pays students to attend. Of course, graduates must then serve in the military on active duty for at least five years after graduation. The Military Academies also tend to weed out the crazy professors with subversive worldviews - at least they used to.

Best wishes and prayers.  It will be a good experiment.

As David Booth said, private institutions engage in heavy price discrimination, and actual cost is usually not the same as sticker price.

Tuition increases at public institutions like my own are largely driven by cutbacks in state funding.

My guess is that tuition increases at private institutions are often driven by increased student services (academic and non-academic). Faculty who do more research and less teaching are also expensive (but bring prestige). Complying with regulations from accreditation agencies and federal funding agencies is expensive. Science and engineering are expensive.

David A Booth,

I'm currently going to dental school, which is eye-poppingly expensive. The military offers very enticing scholarships, and I thought long and hard about applying for one. But I came to this conclusion: a military "scholarship" is still a loan, just of a different denomination. It's a loan that's disbursed in dollars, but repaid in years of service. That's not to say that military scholarships are bad. But, as I'm sure any good serviceman would say, you shouldn't do it just for the money.

Abram,

Thanks. You definitely should not go to a Military Academy for the money. If you do - you'll either never make it or be terribly miserable. I went thinking that I would be a career submarine officer.

David

Hi Abram,

I concur with your decision about not accepting a military scholarship. Back in the day, I was finishing my studies for a B.S. in an allied health profession. To practice, you needed either an year-long internship (which almost always didn't provide enough $$$ to live on) or a 2-year master's degree, and then passing a national registration exam. 

My advisor suggested I consider joining a branch of the military because they would send me to grad school on their dime. Back then, the U.S. wasn't involved in any wars or conflicts, so there was zero chance of being sent to a field hospital in a war zone during my military service. Like you, I would have been an officer, but would have owed them four years of my time afterward. I was single without marriage prospects and thought about it seriously for a number of reasons. Even my dad wanted me to do it. But I came to the same conclusion that you did. Doing it for money wasn't enough. 

P.S. Hope your dental studies are going well.

Question. It was hard to tell from the blog post... will students be attending classes at Athanasius College AND at IU?

Alex,


I hope you and your family are well!

Yes, students at Athanasius will be required to take two courses at IU: a science course and an upper-level humanities course. Additionally, they will be free to take electives at IU, if they choose.

Dear David,

I'd add two things to what you've said. First, no doubt heavily endowed universities can offer full funding to most students. The question, like Abram suggested, is whether other types of debt get tagged on, behind the scenes. Students going to Harvard and Yale, for example, will carry the spiritual burden of a faculty and peers that not only think their beliefs are worthless, but worth obliterating. I'd reiterate my point that, for many young men and women, this is the worst time to send them into the battlefield away from a strong Christian community that will love and discipline them. This spiritual aspect, and not the financial one, is what I would stress first with any student thinking about college.  

IU, even with the Kinsey Institute and the Gender Studies Department, is tame compared to the Ivy League schools. At least IU still has the shame of being a state school. In many ways, thinking about the "elite schools" offering their free education to the underprivileged smells off-- more of the sham Marxist stint most universities hold to as their sacred cow. In other words, they have the financial clout to woo just about everyone now. They also have the cultural clout to make us think that an Ivy League degree is absolutely the best way to go. 

This leads to my second point. Many small Christian and private colleges are spiking their costs for the sake of the same clout. This is where our price and stance on accreditation marks a spiritual distinction. Should we charge $20,000 a year, so we can have a bit more legitimacy? Or focus on a solid core curriculum and faculty, making it affordable for students to attend? 

Everyone should be praying that we find means to offer scholarships and other aid to students in the future. Until then, everyone should pray our students find suitable jobs and support to pay for their studies.

Warmly,  

Brandon,

The question of whether or not a Christian should attend a secular school like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc ... is a complicated one. It depends on how well grounded he is in God's word, what he wants to study, his  commitment to being involved in a strong church while attending school, etc ... Such schools also require a greater commitment on the part of both parents and students in selecting professors.

On the other hand, things are not all gloom and doom at Ivy League schools for Christians. For example, (1) I heard Robert George (a Roman Catholic professor of Philosophy at Princeton) speak a couple of months ago. He commented that today's students are meaningfully more conservative than their parents including meaningfully more pro-life than their parents; and (2) Some of these schools have very active Bible-believing campus ministries (e.g. Harvard University has an outstanding RUF program http://www.harvard.ruf.org/).

One last point: Having been a Christians for more than 40 years I have observed that opposition to Christianity is far less of a threat to Christians than when unbiblical teachings are given a veneer of Christian respectability. This means that a Christian student is at least as likely to embrace feminism or evolution at Gordon College as at Harvard.

Best wishes,

David

Dear David,

A few things. First, I agree with what you are saying in the third paragraph. No quarrel there. Similar points were made in the post. This is one of the aspects we intend Athanasius College to reform. 

For your first paragraph, I'm not sure what you are getting at with the statement about parents and students selecting professors. I suppose with online resources a student and parent could do reasonable research on a professor before classes begin. But my experience with many "Christian" professors at major universities is in line with your warning about Christian colleges. In other words, you could do all the research in the world, and still not know whether that professor will be a godly shepherd for your child. 

Whether we like it or not, professors desire to have and will have influence over their students. At least, the ones who are serious about their calling do.  At a school like Athanasius, parents will at least know what sort of faculty will influence their children, because the Board of Trustees, who makes faculty appointments, is itself appointed by Clearnote Fellowship.   

For your second paragraph, I'd say you should be careful making an exception the rule. Princeton also pays Peter Singer. Prepping for my dissertation exams, I read many of the Ivy League professors. All touted a multi-cultural, postmodern agenda. The same goes for the teaching at my undergrad institution. And this isn't unique to the humanities. In fact, the longest anti-Christian tirade I heard was from my astronomy professor, who opened up one class period by trashing creationism for half an hour. The next semester, he got teacher of the year from the Honors Department.

These guys are the celebrities of their schools. 

Granted, this doesn't answer Professor George's claim about the outlook of modern students. If he's right, this is good news for a conservative, traditional college like Athanasius College. But the events surrounding Doug Wilson's visit to IU for his series Sexual by Design (search for it on the blog) don't make me hopeful he is correct.

Finally, I'd reiterate one other point in relation to Professor George's claim. I know many students reared in solid, Christian homes who went to a university with a good church and campus ministry, but fell away from the faith because of the intellectual pride of the humanities, or the materialism of the sciences and business school, or the sensuality of the frats and dorm-life. Could this and does this happen in the job world as well? Yes. But secular and even Christian colleges advance themselves as places where students can discover their identity apart from their parents. Discovery, learning, acceptance, is their motto, not responsibility and respect for authority.  

We have to view the whole package when thinking about a college. What temptations will it offer? What idols has it raised up for worship? At IU, these would be the Kinsey Institute, gender equality, the basketball team. Students at Athanasius College will be aware of these things, they will engage with them by taking classes from IU, while not being immersed in them daily.  

So, the question about attending a college is much larger than weighing financial cost. Like you say, it is complicated, and I am certainly not saying every student has to attend Athanasius College. Would it give them a stronger, traditional education? Yes. Would it give them evident, clear spiritual discipline and guidance? This is why we are founding the college. 

We can often be so practical about education, we often don't realize how grave a decision it should be. Souls are at stake.

Warmly,  

>>parents considering college should realize that the stated tuition does not reflect the cost of going to school.

Actually, David, the stated tuition does reflect the cost, but not necessarily the cost to the parents.

Your comment reminds me of discussions I've had with those who were cheating corporations or an insurance company, or the hospice office worker who tried to explain to me that I ought not to concern myself with the charges for hospice care for my Aunt Elaine living with us since the state was footing the bill.

Cost is cost regardless of how much of it we bear alone and how much is borne by endowments and taxes. It's a scandal for anyone to waste money on a Wheaton or Gordon or Westmont education regardless of how much of the bill is footed by other taxpayers or Wheaton's endowment fund; and the scandal is made worse both by the false claims of Biblical orthodoxy Wheaton uses to sell its product and the bodacious amount they charge for their heterodoxy and heresy.

One additional comment: when our eldest son, Joseph, was choosing a school, despite his having completed a year and a half of college at IU before his graduation and his acing the SAT, Covenant offered him nothing whereas Vandy offered him a full ride. It's often the case that honestly pagan schools will cost infinitely less than heterodox schools like Covenant and Wheaton. And all other things being equal, I'd much rather give money to honest pagans than those falsely claiming to hold to inerrancy as they work to destroy my son's Christian faith.

Love,

>>Robert George (a Roman Catholic professor of Philosophy at Princeton) speak a couple of months ago.

Son Joseph was precisely the demographic Princeton accepts, but two things caused him not to apply: the presence of Peter Singer hired by Princeton to teach that a good dog has more value than a defective child; and the despicable pride that attaches itself to Ivy League grads, leading them to become those God resists.

But of course, since many Christian fathers--maybe most--are much more humble than I, it's likely their sons would not be tempted as mine would have been. Look around you at Harvard grads from Christian homes other than mine and see how humble they are.

>>Having been a Christian for more than 40 years, I have observed that opposition to Christianity is far less of a threat to Christians than when unbiblical teachings are given a veneer of Christian respectability. This means that a Christian student is at least as likely to embrace feminism or evolution at Gordon College as at Harvard.

Absolutely! As I've often quoted him here on Baylyblog, Dad said the problem with Christian colleges is you don't know who the enemy is, whereas at secular schools it's clear.

Love,

Tim,

Thank you for always cutting it straight.

Warmly,

David

As I said to my brothers and sisters in Christ last Lord's Day, lots of times I don't. May God forgive me.

Love,

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