How to Choose a Liberal Arts College

This article first appeared in the Viewpoint column  of the Christian Research Journal, volume 45, number 2/3  (2022). 

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Today’s students will enter college during the heyday of a toxic, anti-human ideology that is overrunning our institutions of higher education. It’s a strange brew of identity Marxism and postmodernism that we can call critical theory. It’s the common source of both queer theory and critical race theory, and it makes the campus radicalism of the 1960s look like child’s play. Think of it as a highly contagious mind-virus designed to enthrall and confuse rather than a secular worldview that appeals to evidence and rational arguments.

Do you want to improve the chances that your college-aged kids and grandkids survive this contagion? Then take seriously where they study. It’s not enough to pick a school with a Christian label or even a statement of faith. The students most likely to survive with their faith intact and uncontaminated will not have been quarantined or overexposed but inoculated. They need to learn both how to think and discover what they ought to think. For this, they should be grounded in Scripture and grapple with the greatest texts and thinkers that Western culture has to offer.

Look for schools with a crystal-clear mission and a solid core curriculum that you can learn about without hiring a private investigator. There are still many such schools in the US. Here are a few that I’m happy to recommend.

University of Dallas
Hillsdale College
Thomas Aquinas College
Patrick Henry College
Houston Baptist University
The King’s College
Colorado Christian University

Jay W. Richards, PhD is director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at The Heritage Foundation. He also is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and executive editor of The Stream.

Editors’ Note: With the understanding that parents must exercise due diligence in selecting programs for their students, other schools we generally recommend include Saint Constantine College (Houston), Hellenic College Holy Cross, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Toccoa Falls College, Asbury University, Anderson University (South Carolina), Arizona Christian University, and the philosophy program at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

We recognize that a liberal arts program might not be the best fit for a student looking for a specialized major in a STEM field. For further guidance in choosing a college, we recommend the following resources:

Rod Dreher, “Out of Academia’s Ashes,” The American Conservative, March 5, 2017, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/out-of-academia-ashes/

Maren Halvorson, “State School? Christian College? Navigating the Many Choices,” Christian Research Journal, vol. 38, no. 02 (2015), https://www.equip.org/article/state-schoolchristian-college-navigating-many-choices/

Adam C. Pelser, “Philosophy, Politics, and the End of Liberal Arts Education,” Christian Research Journal, vol. 39, no. 04 (2016), https://www.equip.org/article/philosophy-politics-endliberal-arts-education/

John Mark Reynolds, “Ten Things You Must Avoid in Picking a College,” Circe Institute, March 9, 2015, https://www.circeinstitute.org/blog/ten-things-you-must-avoid-picking-college

No matter where your child attends college, including solid Christian liberal arts programs, there is no substitute for them growing in their own personal spiritual disciplines. This includes faithfully attending church every Sunday, participating in a weekly small group Bible study with other Christian students, and being involved in a Christian group on campus — every Christian tradition has a group on campus with other students from that tradition. In addition to the article by Louis Markos, “Seven or So Exhortations to College-Bound Students in a Postmodern World,” the following books will help to equip your student as they go off to college:

J. Budziszewski, How to Stay Christian in College (Think Books, 2014)

David Horner, Mind Your Faith: A Student’s Guide to Thinking and Living Well (InterVarsity Academic, 2011)

Michael Kruger, Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College (Crossway, 2021)

J. C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (1886; Canon Press, 2020)

AND REGARDING WOKE IDEOLOGY:

Douglas R. Groothuis, Fire in the Streets: How You Can Confidently Respond to Incendiary Cultural Topics (Salem Books, 2022)

Noelle Mering, Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology (TAN Books, 2021)


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