Final Thoughts on Social Class and Christian Colleges

A few stray observations that I couldn’t quite fit in to my earlier posts on social class at Christian colleges:

Top 10 Lists

Which evangelical colleges and universities in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) do best and worst according to Washington Monthly‘s social mobility index, discussed in yesterday’s post? Here are the top/bottom ten lists, with schools’ WM social mobility ranks converted into percentile rankings to allow for cross-category comparisons:

1. Vanguard University (99th percentile)2. College of the Ozarks (98th)

3t. University of the Southwest (96th)

3t. Warner Pacific College (96th)

5. Shorter University (85th)

6. Erskine College (84th)

7. Grove City College (83rd)

8. Williams Baptist (80th)

9t. Emmanuel College (78th)

9t. Fresno Pacific (78th)

1. Biola University (3rd)2. Montreat College (4th)

3. Colorado Christian University (5th)

4. Kentucky Christian University (6th)

5t. Azusa Pacific University (7th)

5t. LeTourneau University (7th)

7. Houston Baptist University (8th)

8. Tabor College (12th)

9. North Central University (15th)

10. Westmont College (16th percentile)

Prayer Chapel at Biola
Rose of Sharon Prayer Chapel at Biola University, whose net price ($28,393) is higher than every CCCU school but for Southern Cal neighbor Westmont – Creative Commons (abraggins)

Regional Variations

I didn’t look at the entire set of CCCU members, but it was interesting to note that, of the ten that ranked in the top quartile for social mobility in their categories, only one was not located in the South or West: Grove City of Pennsylvania (83rd percentile for liberal arts colleges — and Grove City is already a bit of an odd case in the WM system because it doesn’t certify students for Pell Grants.) In fact, only three Northeastern or Midwestern schools even cracked the 70th percentile: Huntington University and Grace College of Indiana, and Hannibal-LaGrange of Missouri, all in the baccalaureate colleges group.

At the same time, of the twenty-five CCCU members in the bottom quartiles of their categories… Five are located in the Midwest (Tabor, North Central, Dordt College, Sterling College, and the University of Sioux Falls) and one in the Northeast (Gordon College).

Logo for Emmanuel College (GA)CCCU schools located in the South account for half of the council’s top quartile representatives (College of the Ozarks, Shorter, Erskine, Williams Baptist College, and Emmanuel College) but about the same share at the other end of the spectrum (Montreat, Kentucky Christian, LeTourneau, Houston Baptist, Hardin-Simmons University, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, North Greenville University, Trevecca Nazarene University, Oklahoma Christian University, Lipscomb University, East Texas Baptist University, and Abilene Christian University).

That leaves four schools out West that rank near the top of the WM social mobility index (Vanguard, University of the Southwest, Warner Pacific College, and Fresno Pacific University) and seven that are near the bottom (Biola, Colorado Christian, Azusa Pacific, Westmont, Northwest Christian University, Concordia-Irvine, and The Master’s College).

Jesuit Schools are Ex-pen-sive!

My main purpose in yesterday’s post was to consider how the evangelical schools of the CCCU compare to other church-related colleges and universities in attracting and graduating lower-income students, but it was hard not to be distracted by how poorly Catholic schools came off by this method. And here, it’s fair to note that the Franciscan and diocesan schools are being dragged down by their Jesuit cousins…

To appreciate just how far out of reach most of this country’s twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities are for lower-income students, compare and contrast them with the eight members of the Ivy League. Try to guess which is which in the table below:

Median % of
Students Receiving Pell Grants

Median Net
Price of Attendance

% of Schools in the Bottom Quartile on
Social Mobility

Group #1




Group #2




Yes, #1 would be the Jesuit institutions. This seems impossible, but in the WM rankings, the least socially mobile Ivy (Cornell, #205 among national universities) does better than the most socially mobile Jesuit school in the same category (Boston College, #210; it’s also the only one of the eight Jesuit national universities not in the bottom quartile for the category).

Even Saint Peter’s College, which has by far the cheapest net price ($15,680) and highest share of Pell Grant recipients (55%) in the Jesuit consortium, ranks only in the middle of its comparison group on social mobility (292 out of 682) because of a 52% graduation rate.

At the bottom of the scale… Fordham, Seattle University, and three Loyolas (Marymount, New Orleans, and Chicago) are lower than 10th percentile in their categories. Loyola of Chicago fares particularly poorly in this methodology, ranking just two spots from the bottom of the national university list. Not only is its net price ($28,491) more than $5000 heftier than the most expensive Ivy (Brown), but its graduation rate is only 67%, fourteen points below the rate predicted by WM’s algorithm. (To be fair, Loyola-Chicago’s overall WM rank is still quite high — #68, twenty-five spots ahead of Brown — because it does so well on the WM’s “service” ratings.)

Cudahy Science Hall, Loyola University of Chicago
Cudahy Science Hall, Loyola University of Chicago – Creative Commons (Amerique)

Here’s what happens to the Catholic medians if you take out the Jesuit schools and let the combination of Franciscan and diocesan colleges and universities stack up against CCCU members:

Median % of Students Receiving Pell Grants

Median Net Price of Attendance

% of Schools in the Bottom Quartile on Social Mobility

Diocesan, Franciscan, and Jesuit




Diocesan and Franciscan








3 thoughts on “Final Thoughts on Social Class and Christian Colleges

  1. Thanks for tooting Emmanuel College’s horn here, Chris. I know that our administration has gone out of its way to keep EC a good choice for first-generation college students, and although that comes with its own challenges (does it ever!), I also finish each semester able to point to some students who really are entering a different sort of world from what they would have known otherwise.

  2. Very perceptive articles. I was the first from my family to attend college. I came from a rural background–closer to “tentant farmers” than “Gentry farmers” and adjustment was a challenge. My parents never quite figured it out (they never did understand the concept of “semester hours”). Now when I go back to my home community, I don’t quite fit in and usually find that other “first in the family college graduate” peers from surrounding farms are the only ones who seem really comfortable in conversation with me. Still, I am ever so grateful for a liberal arts education.

  3. From Biola University’s new ten-year university plan… Aspiration #7: “Ensure the Affordability of a Biola Education – Biola University will actively address the issue of college affordability, striving to reduce the burden of student debt and financial sacrifice of our students and, in many cases, their supportive families. By focusing on affordability, we will make a Biola education more attainable without diminishing its exemplary quality.”

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