Monday, March 11, 2019

The threat is real. . .

‘Total Liquidation Sale! Everything Must Go!” the signs screamed. Which was odd, because this wasn’t a furniture store or a carpet warehouse. It was Concordia College, a small historically black private college in Selma, Ala., and it was selling office equipment, classroom articles and athletic apparatus.
So began a Wall Street Journal article on the threat to America's colleges, especially those smaller, poorer, and religious schools who are finding competition from online degree programs a hefty challenge.  Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School thinks that half of America’s colleges will close due to the same threat  Guelzo, author of the WSJ article, thinks America’s 1,800 private colleges are especially vulnerable.  In the case of Selma, the student body dropped by 43%, the school was deep in debt, and it became no longer financial viable.  In other words, it was bankrupt.  It may be the tip of a growing trend.

Of course, there are many threats -- online degree programs, cheap state schools, state programs to reduce tuition cost or even make it free, and the lack of big endowments.  But Guelzo said the threat may be much simpler -- demographics. The sagging birth rates reduce potential applicants (he says 450,000 during the 2020s) mean that competition for the remaining pool of candidates will be fierce and the big schools are in a much better position to weather the shrinking population and have a diverse income stream to support their efforts.  On the other hand, private colleges must raise money through tuition increases that will effectively price them out of the market.  Tax dollars that support public universities mean that the student population does not have to bear the entire cost as they do in private schools.  Plus the drumbeat of free college for all indicates the threat is not only real but is moving quickly to hamstring the recruitment at the vast majority of private colleges.

So the threat that forced the closure of Concordia College, Selma, was not unique to that school and is a very real threat to most of our Missouri Synod Concordias.  While some (Mequon) have done an effective job of adding programs and recruiting students, it also has (apart from the Ann Arbor campus) a very small population of those training for church work vocations.  So it is succeeding by inventing a purpose different from what it was created by the church to do.  Unfortunately, the other Concordias are not as well positioned, have smaller student bodies, and are much more vulnerable to the threats faced by all private and especially religious colleges and universities.

In the LCMS there is a very strong desire to see our Concordias prosper and to find a way to reinvigorate their role as trainers for the church workers of our future.  That said, it is by all accounts an uphill battle.  Some will inevitably have to close and others will perhaps find ways to build programs and recruit students to a more diverse campus and all of them will have to figure out what to do to compete with other online degree programs.  The Synod has already seen this threat and is working on it but it may not be possible to maneuver around the obstacles in their path and leave these decisions to a triennial convention cycle.  I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future but all I have is a basic understanding of the potholes facing those Concordias and the church body that has always seen these institutions are auxiliaries to the primary mission of the LCMS.  In any event, it will not be a simple matter for our leaders to work through and it will require us to make some hard decisions -- sooner rather than later.

As a product of the LCMS system of junior colleges, a senior college, and seminaries, I am convinced of the value.  But I fear it is a jewel too pricey for us to keep in anything at all resembling what I knew or even what we see in place right now.  This is a time of prayer and angst and yet we meet it with the confidence that God will work among us to find the right way and to make the hard decisions.  The last thing we need is politicking that polarizes the state of the church that must make such decisions.


Carl Vehse said...

It started with a Concordia of the LCC. A February 3, 2016, Cranach article, "Concordia Edmonton repudiates its Christian identity," noted:

"Concordia University Edmonton, a college of the Lutheran Church Canada (both of which were founded by the LCMS), has removed all references to Lutheranism and to Christianity from its governing documents. The institution’s board of directors took that action without consulting the Lutheran Church Canada.

"The college had gradually been cutting its ties with the church."

A May 26, 2017 message from the Concordia University [Portland] Board of Regents reads in part:

"Concordia University Portland has been presented with a request by the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod to consider becoming an independent Lutheran university. The Board of Regents has unanimously decided to move forward with an exploratory process in which it will carefully consider this organizing structure."

On March 16, 2018, Concordia-Portland announced that it had accepted the charter for a Queer club on campus for LGBTQ+ students, along with indoctrination training for students, faculty and administration to support this perversion.

A February 14, 2019, Concordia University-St. Paul Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan." states, in part:

"Diversity includes identities and experiences of all students; it is our goal to serve and support underrepresented individuals and groups such as, but not limited to: new immigrant populations, students of various gender identities and sexual orientations, first-generation students, socioeconomic status, people of different religious faiths, veterans, and students, staff, and faculty from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, races and cultures.

"In these complex times, we have students, faculty, and staff with various legal residency statues, those who are first generation, and individuals of various gender identities and sexual orientations who may not feel comfortable identifying themselves according to the categories below. Therefore, the numbers and groups profiled likely do not reflect the totality of underrepresented students, faculty, and staff comprising the Concordia University community. In short, our diversity itself is likely underrepresented herein.

"Objective 1: Increase recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty and staff at all levels of the university by 10 percent [which includes the previously noted 'various gender identities and sexual orientations')."

The Concordias appear to be jumping on board the proverbial handbasket.

Deacon Nicholas said...

My sister left Concordia in Portland because the environment there was hostile to her as an Orthodox Christian.

Anonymous said...

"In the LCMS there is a very strong desire to see our Concordias prosper and to find a way to reinvigorate their role as trainers for the church workers of our future. That said, it is by all accounts an uphill battle."

This is not the priority I hear being expressed, over and over, by the Presidents of CUS institutions; instead, they keep claiming the great mission of our CUS institutions is first to raise up lay Lutheran leaders for our church and then to evangelize the non-Christians who choose to attend. That sounds very noble and who could argue with this, or want to? If you do, you are at once being anti-laity and anti-mission.

But, the purpose of CUS Institutions was always to be places where the future pastors and teachers of our church body would be well educated.

Can our CUS institutions hope to compete against much less expensive secular institutions or even other private institutions of higher learning?

Carl Vehse said...

"Of course, there are many threats -- online degree programs"

An October 21, 2016, Oregonian report, "Concordia gained thousands of new students -- and a federal inquiry," noted:

"[Concordia University-Portland] now bestows more Master of Education degrees than any other public or private nonprofit school in the country, thanks to a popular online teaching program that helped quadruple the college's revenues in five years.

"The meteoric growth came at a price to Concordia. The small Christian school has paid more than $160 million to a private contractor hired to handle aspects of the online graduate degree program. Students know little about the Silicon Valley company or its outsized role.

"Concordia and HotChalk Inc. drew rebuke last year after the U.S. Education Department concluded a two-year investigation into their relationship. A federal prosecutor said the arrangement appeared to violate laws that keep colleges from paying incentives for recruitment, or from outsourcing more than half an educational program to an unaccredited party.

"HotChalk would recruit students, cover all enrollment activities and provide the educational curriculum, faculty, and classes" for at least some of Concordia online degree programs, said a July 2015 letter that summarized the government's findings.

"Concordia and HotChalk soon signed a $1 million settlement that admitted no wrongdoing in the case, started as a whistleblower suit by former HotChalk employees."

Anonymous said...

The LCMS has two problems which affect the Concordias

1. Parents no longer encourage their children to become
full-time LCMS church workers. We especially need more
Lutheran school teachers as well as Lutheran pastors.

2. We do not need all ten Concordia Universities any longer.
The West Coast has Irvine and the Midwest has Mequon, Wisconsin.
Seward has the highest ratio of students who want to be church
workers. Perhaps Austin, Texas and River Forest Chicago would
give us 5 solid universities to keep.

Anonymous said...

Deacon Nicholas,

That is very sad to hear. I am ashamed that this is the case. It is diabolical, and may the Lord call those responsible to repentance. Forgive us.

Carl Vehse said...

Concordia-Portland continue to sink into hull-crushing depths of perversion.

A BJS article includes a link to Concordia-Portland's Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, where you can register for "LGBTQ 101 Training" and be provided with "some of the fundamental and baseline knowledge of LGBTQ issues"

The BJS article also provides the phone numbers and email addresses of the District President and Synod President to whom you may send in your comments.

Of course, if you are looking for ecclesiastical supervision in the Missouri Synod, you might as well leave a note for the Tooth Fairy.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote:

"2. We do not need all ten Concordia Universities any longer.
The West Coast has Irvine and the Midwest has Mequon, Wisconsin.
Seward has the highest ratio of students who want to be church
workers. Perhaps Austin, Texas and River Forest Chicago would
give us 5 solid universities to keep."

Agreed. The LCMS has ten universities. Sell five.

Take the proceeds from the sale of the five and build state of the art campus religious centers - strategically placed next to the largest, most popular state schools in the country. The mission of the campus religious centers would align with the vision of the CUS presidents: "to raise up lay Lutheran leaders for our church and then to evangelize the non-Christians who choose to attend."

Of the five universities that remain, develop and strengthen online and international student exchange programs. Reduce the number of social sciences and liberal arts major programs (most of which is infected by the SJW agenda in any case) to the bare minimum required for Higher Education accreditation. Offer majors in "vocational" white collar job titles such as Engineering, Nursing, Environmental Health, Radiology, and Accounting. Encourage students to become bi-vocational church workers. Encourage them to declare double-majors toward this effort.


I hope the LCMS institutional leaders will not be so consumed in their turf wars and mobbing activities to see that these changes need to happen....