Faith-Based Institutions Slashing Tuitions, Names in Attempt to Stop Plummeting Enrollment

Faith-based and religious universities are making cuts - in tuition as well as from their names - to retain students and prevent further declines in enrollments.

For example, Point University was formerly known as Atlanta Christian College and Johnson Bible College recently dropped "Bible" from its name. Some schools are making the name change in an effort to appear more secular, as CP has reported.

In addition to changing their names, universities have been targeting prospective students by offering sales, with some even cutting annual tuition costs by 50 percent or more.

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Two-thirds of the country's 1,600 small universities have a religious affiliation, many of which are Christian, but the number of adults in the U.S. who identify as Christian is falling, according to a study by Trinity College.

In 1990, more than 85 percent of adults in the U.S. identified themselves as Christians. That number fell to 76 percent in 2008.

A Pew Research Center 2007 study found that more than a quarter of Americans age 18-29 are not affiliated with any denomination.

Those numbers are apparently causing many faith-based institutions to change their tuition costs to entice students to attend religious-affiliated colleges.

New Jersey's Seton Hall University, which espouses a Catholic tradition, is cutting tuition and fees by 60 percent for students in the top 10 percent of their high school class who also have an SAT score of 1200 or higher. The academic elite will now pay slightly more than $12,000 per year, beginning in 2012 – a drop from the standard $33,500 annual tuition costs.

"This program rewards the efforts of high-achieving students,” Alyssa McCloud, vice president of Enrollment Management at Seton Hall University, said in a statement.

Georgia's Brewton-Parker College, a private Baptist school, plans to cut tuition by 22 percent, making it slightly more than $12,000 a year for the school's 778 students.

The move comes as the school tries to stop plummeting enrollment figures. The drop in tuition is an attempt to stay competitive without straying from the school's principles, college officials said.

"Even in tough economic times, Brewton-Parker remains an excellent value in Christian higher education," the school said on its website. "And with next year's cost of tuition and fees going up at most institutions, we'll have an even more competitive bottom line."

Pennsylvania's Duquesne University, which describes itself as the "largest, most comprehensive Catholic university in Pennsylvania," plans to follow suit and slash tuition by 50 percent in 2012. Cabrini College, also Catholic and located in Pennsylvania, plans to cut tuition by 12.5 percent and keep it at that level until 2014.

It is unclear how long faith-based universities can offer highly reduced tuitions without cutting services if they do not generate a large increase in enrollment.

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