One of the great grievances of Christians in the United States is the secularization of institutions of higher education throughout the 20th century. The great names among universities and colleges are predominantly ex-Christian schools. At one time the charge still stung, as it did when Buckley wrote his indictment of his alma mater Yale. But today, the escape from parochial conviction is fully celebrated.
After the great wave of secularization in higher education, many Christian schools have dug in their heels to retain their faithfulness. Others have been founded explicitly to do so. But one thing characterizes the vast bulk of schools in the orthodox space: they struggle financially. I am sure that the struggle takes place, in part, because Christian donors heed the advice that they should not give really large sums out of fear of making schools independent and thus more likely (simply from the nature of higher education as it is predominantly practiced) to secularize.
I write today to propose a device for improving the lot of at least some subset of the Christian colleges and universities. Big Christian donors (perhaps the Cathy’s, Norm Miller, the Greens, and a variety of others) could create a fund supervised by someone who really understands the Christian higher education sector. The purpose of the fund would be to serve as an endowment for a strategically select group of institutions while not being under the control of those institutions. This endowment would be purely for the purpose of underwriting scholarships (or otherwise subsidizing tuition) so as to reduce the cost of attendance for students. It is not controversial to claim that many more families would choose Christian colleges if the price gap between private and public could be bridged through philanthropy.
In order to continue receiving some part of the millions of dollars the fund would throw off annually, each institution would have to demonstrate (primarily through its hiring and curricular practices) that it remains recognizably Christian and that it operates efficiently. While not owning the endowment funds would inhibit planning at recipient institutions to some degree, they would be able to count on the help as long as they kept the faith.
The fundamental model is in place with the United Negro College Fund, which disburses millions of dollars in scholarships each years to a select list of historically black colleges and universities. Similar tuition underwriting would go a long way toward maintaining orthodoxy at Christian colleges and universities and increasing the attractiveness of attending those schools by reducing the price discrepancy created by state subsidies.