Now More Than Ever Research Affirms Eternal Value of Christian College Education

"A Christian education is an investment in eternity."

We've all heard that kind of passionate statement many times — and probably agree heartily with it. Although proving the monetary benefits of a college degree is relatively simple — lifetime income is 60 percent more, research shows — measuring eternal impact is considerably more difficult.

That's all changing, and the spiritual worth of schools like Walla Walla University need no longer be quantified merely by grateful stories from parents and alumni — powerful and persuasive though they can be. Over the past decade, researchers have sought to measure the value of a Christian college experience, with some surprisingly tangible results.

Spiritual Growth Enhances Other Outcomes

Researchers at UCLA aimed to identify the role college plays in developing spiritual qualities. More than 112,000 students on 236 campuses nationwide participated in the seven-year "Spirituality in Higher Education" effort.

The study concluded those who experience spiritual growth perform better academically, have greater psychological well-being and develop stronger leadership skills. "We believe that the findings provide a powerful argument that higher education should attend more to students' spiritual development," says one of the study's co-authors.

Activities and Mentorship Foster Spirituality

The UCLA researchers concluded that college activities, such as service involvement, are key contributors to spiritual growth. The authors also noted that spirituality was enhanced when students engaged in "inner work" through meditation or self-reflection, and when professors actively encouraged them to explore questions of meaning and purpose.

These findings echo the Valuegenesis study of Adventist young people, which identified service participation, sharing one's faith and being part of a thinking climate as three of the top 10 factors in building a mature spiritual life. At WWU, thousands of young people have served as student missionaries over the past 50 years, and committed Christian teachers guide journeys of spiritual discovery.

Choice of School Affects Faith

In a 2006 article in Christianity Today, author Steve Henderson reviewed student survey data and made a sobering analysis. "If the past is a fair indication of the future, at least half and possibly over two-thirds of our children will step away from their faith while attending non-Christian colleges and universities," he says.

In other words, the choice of a college can have a lifelong impact not just on career but on personal faith — and thus on the future of a church. In a chaotic, too-often rudderless society, the bedrock values of Christian education at WWU have never seemed more important.

Did you know?

Almost 80 percent1 of WWU students qualify for need-based financial aid.

The average out-of-pocket cost after financial aid is about $6,100.1

Of all Adventist colleges in North America, WWU ranks second lowest in average annual student loans.2

12009-2010 school year.

2National Center for Education Statistics, 2008.

February 01, 2011 / Walla Walla University