Do Christian Colleges Mirror the Diversity of Their Locales?

Last week my review of Department of Education data (via a Chronicle of Higher Education tool) found that Christian colleges were considerably less diverse than the national average, though perhaps a bit better in that respect than religious colleges as a whole.

Picking up on my observation that West Coast members of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) tended to do much better than the rest of the consortium in enrolling Asian American students, one of my colleagues suggested that it reflected the demographic make-up of states like California, which have historically been centers of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, and other Asian immigrant communities. According to the U.S. Census’ annual American Community Survey (ACS), about one in eight residents of Greater Los Angeles, for example, are of Asian descent.

That got me wondering, more broadly, whether diversity figures tended to mirror the local populations from which most colleges and universities draw significant numbers of students. All the more so because we increasingly hear that students are becoming more reluctant to go far from home for college. According to one recent study, 58% of high school graduates stay within 100 miles of their homes as they continue their educations. That figure is considerably higher for states in the southwest and southeast. (California, for example, sends just 24% of its high school graduates out-of-state for college.)

So let’s test that with the CCCU:

Rather than attempt a comprehensive survey, I thought I’d look at metro areas (actually, “combined statistical areas,” which are a bit larger) that have at least three CCCU schools within their boundaries. For each area, I pulled the most recent ACS data on Asian, African American/black, and Hispanic/Latino populations.

Per my colleague’s question, let’s start with the megalopolis known as the Los Angeles-Long Beach CSA, home to seven members of the CCCU. For each school, I converted its Asian, black, and Hispanic population (from the IPEDS data) to a simple scale where 100 was the average for the metro area.

Los Angeles-Long Beach

Asian
(12.7%)

Black
(6.7%)

Hispanic
(45.7%)

California Baptist

40

136

59

Biola

143

36

30

Azusa Pacific

67

96

44

Hope International

35

107

35

Vanguard

46

73

56

Concordia-Irvine

41

85

36

The Master’s College

74

69

20

While Azusa Pacific, Biola, Master’s College, and Vanguard all exceed the national average, only Biola has an Asian American population that comes close to (in this case, greatly exceeds) the more local average.

Prayer Chapel at Biola
Rose of Sharon Prayer Chapel, Biola University – Creative Commons (abraggins)

What’s more striking is how dimly these Christian colleges and universities mirror the rest of SoCal in terms of the Hispanic/Latino population.

Here then are next two largest combined statistical areas to host at least three CCCU schools, with the same calculations:

Chicago-Naperville

Asian
(5.8%)

Black
(16.6%)

Hispanic
(20.9%)

North Park

100

54

62

Trinity International

109

70

24

Wheaton

124

14

19

Olivet Nazarene

34

69

23

Trinity Christian

26

57

44

Judson

21

43

43

Minneapolis-St. Paul

Asian
(5.6%)

Black
(7.1%)

Hispanic
(5.4%)

Crown

123

54

69

North Central

41

56

135

Bethel

46

77

31

Northwestern

71

59

19

Wheaton‘s an easy target in the Christian college world, but it is astonishing how little its African American and Hispanic populations resemble Chicagoland. As a nationally-known institution, it should be able to recruit even beyond that region, and as the best-endowed member of the CCCU, it should have the wherewithal to offer financial aid to students of color for whom Wheaton’s high cost is an issue.

But to wrap this up, let’s bring in the three other, much smaller CSAs with at least three CCCU schools (Oklahoma City-Shawnee, Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, Springfield-Branson) and chart those institutions with those from LA, Chicago, and the Twin Cities. On each graph, the x-axis is the percentage of the school’s student population, with the y-axis being the percentage for the region. The closer the institution is to the line, the more it mirrors the local population.

How selected CCCU members mirror the minority populations of their metro areas

(I did have to remove the Los Angeles Hispanic numbers, simply because that minority population was so large that it stretched the axes to the point that it’s hard to make sense of the rest of the data. I’m sure there’s a way to do this with a logarithmic scale, but I’m already exceeding my abilities here…)

So what to make of Evangel University? Students of color account for just over 15% of its population, below the CCCU average (just under 20%). But its Asian, Hispanic, and black populations are 30%, 61%, and 137% higher, respectively, than the same figures for the surrounding area, which is well over 90% white. It’s the only school in this set to be more diverse than its locale for all three populations. As the flagship school of a multi-ethnic denomination (less than 60% white), I suspect that it recruits well far beyond the confines of southern Missouri.


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