In Tennessee, One Christian College Breaks Enrollment Records, While Another Fights Declines

News & Reporting | 10/14/2019 | Staff
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Two Christian colleges in the same state, both holding to similar religious commitments, and both trying to recruit similar students, are seeing very different results.

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Trevecca - Nazarene - University - Nashville - Enrollment

Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville just announced record-breaking enrollment figures, while Bryan College in Dayton has been struggling to attract students and is now lowering tuition rates.

Enrollment rates and retention are critical for small Christian schools. The experiences of Trevecca and Bryan call attention to how important it is for a college to cultivate a niche identity—without creating any controversy that might make prospective students or their parents leery of the institution.

Ways - Schools - Portions - Student - Body

In some ways, the schools are very similar. Both recruit large portions of their student body from Tennessee, and are especially appealing to conservative Christians. Trevecca, a 118-year-old liberal arts college affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, emphasizes the importance of biblical inerrancy and has a conservative sexual ethics policy. Bryan—named for William Jennings Bryan, the creationist hero of the famous Scopes Trial—takes a similar moral stand on sex and sexuality, and celebrates its connection to the historic defense of biblical literalism.

Yet full-time enrollment at Trevecca has grown by 3 to 6 percent each year since 2013, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). This fall, the campus newspaper TrevEchoes reported the school has 1,433 students on campus.

Time - Frame - Bryan - Decline - Number

In that same time frame, Bryan saw enrollment decline. The number of full-time undergraduates decreased between 6 and 13 percent in 2013, 2014, and 2015, according to IPEDS. Enrollment numbers rebounded a bit in 2016, but then declined again in 2017. Enrollment numbers are moving in a positive direction again in 2018 and 2019, according to Adina Scruggs, associate vice president of academics at Bryan. The college hopes to encourage that trend.

Bryan opened a school of engineering...
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