On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I heard several significant statistics, many of which are relevant to us here at Evangel University. The general thrust of the data shows that our country’s perception of higher education is growing worse.
Nine years ago, in 2015, Gallup and other sources reported that 57 percent of the public had a high level of confidence in the beneficial nature of higher education institutions. More than half of those surveyed said they thought higher education played a significant role in the betterment of America. They believed that college didn’t just give students a skill for employment but embedded a strong work ethic and character.
However, this confidence began to erode over time. By 2019, the percentage had dropped from 57 percent to 48 percent. Subsequently, from 2019 to 2023, there was a further decline, bringing the confidence level down to 36 percent. This represents a consistent 10 percent decline over four years.
Now, the most recent data from Pew and Gallup reveal that the decline is accelerating. It’s anticipated that the confidence in higher education will dip below 30 percent after the recent congressional testimonies of several university presidents.
A disturbing aspect of the fallout from these findings is the possibility that governmental leaders will be tempted to reduce the money students receive for Pell Grants. This would be catastrophic for students who attend faith-based universities like EU. The threats that Christian universities are facing at the speed at which these changes are occurring is beyond comprehension.
At a dinner in Washington with several other university presidents, I heard from former U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, who now serves as president of the University of Florida. He shared that while much attention is often focused on the top 15 elite Ivy League institutions, they enroll a minuscule fraction of the population.
There are approximately 31 million Americans aged 18 to 24, and at any given moment, about 14 million of them are actively enrolled in college, which is just under 50%. Collectively, top 15 schools enroll less than two-tenths of 1% of the population. However, their actions and reputation tend to define the public perception of higher education.
Of course, in a competition for airtime, a school like Evangel doesn’t stand a chance against a Harvard or a Yale. However, I argue strongly that we provide something of greater depth than any Ivy League university. EU is a place of belonging, excellence, compassion producing graduates with virtue and valor for every vocation on the earth. Led by the Holy Spirit, it is our calling to improve lives, come alongside the suffering, and be Christ’s ambassadors all over the world.
At Evangel, we prepare students to believe God for great things and excel on the highest possible stage of influence in their vocation. We believe that with God’s help, students can spend their lives and vocations in meaningful ways that impact and help transform lives.
It is our mandate to draw out the God-given potential inside every student, to help them endure setbacks and sufferings should they come, and not lose faith, hope, or compassion for the things God cares about. This atmosphere of character cultivation and spiritual transformation provides for each student a learning that usually doesn’t happen in the classroom.
In deeply spiritual ways, Evangel University exhibits remarkable compassion for those we are called to serve and an unrelenting aspiration to achieve its mission of equipping Spirit-empowered servants of God to impact the Church and society globally. This distinctive mission is ever-present on our campus and in our alums as we act upon what it means to be Evangel University in the marketplace.
For over 29 months, I’ve had the honor of being a part of this family. I am continually renewed by the deep and abiding love people have for Evangel and for advancing its mission. That commitment has yielded extraordinary results and essential progress over the last year.
We must not fail in our duty to support and maintain this environment of Spirit-driven transformation, and that is why I am calling on every friend of EU to support this continued mission. Friends of Evangel, friends of the gospel and members of the kingdom, we must pull together to help meet the needs of this generation and demonstrate that the value of institutions like Evangel University cannot be overstated.