Most parents have experienced that bittersweet moment when they kissed their baby goodbye, leaving them in their dorm for their freshman year of college. They know as they drive away that the young person who returns to them at the end of the semester will not be the same person they're leaving behind today. Sometimes, that's a good thing. College is an opportunity for growth and increased responsibility.
But, what about when it's a bad thing? What if college isn't just a chance for your child to "practice" adulthood in a safe learning environment, but actually the force that derails them from the path that 18 years of careful parenting put them on? Are our kids actually better off after four years of today's college environment?
For Christians, the answer is overwhelmingly "no." Christian leaders have long grieved over the 70 percent of college students raised Christian who walk away from their faith during those first four years away from home, but little progress has been made in rectifying the situation.
It's no wonder, really, when less than 1 percent of professors at elite universities claim to be born-again believers. When the men and women speaking into your child's life during these formative years are agnostic, atheist or nonreligious, it's no wonder that the student's worldview radically changes.
Even for those outside the church, students are unlikely to leave college better off than they were before in important areas of life, due to a litany of issues endemic to the current university setting.
With stories of scandals circulating in the news, such as the recent crisis in which the Baylor University football program turned a blind eye to its players' off-field misconduct, it's no shock that sexual assault is a major problem on university campuses. Few realize just how prevalent it is. Reports show that 23.1 percent of university females experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. Male students are 78 percent more likely than non-students of the same age to be the victim of sexual assault.
In addition to sexual violence, 47 percent of students experience hazing while at school. Two out of five students admit to binge drinking. One in four has an STD. Over 41 percent struggle with anxiety.
Given how harmful college can be to students, why do we, as parents, continue sending them into these institutions? Better yet, why are we encouraging them to go into an average of $37,172 of debt for it? One word: jobs.
It takes the typical graduate over 20 years to pay off their student debt, but it can take a lifetime to overcome the emotional, spiritual and even physical consequences of four years of college.
But college degrees are in today's workforce what a high school diploma was 30 years ago. The only way to get ahead in today's professional environment is to get an undergraduate degree, and probably a graduate degree as well.
If higher education is a necessity for career success, perhaps it's time for parents to start looking for ways to do college differently. If universities are no longer safe environments, perhaps it's best for your child to live at home while attending classes at a local school. Maybe they can live with a relative who lives near a major university, or can take online classes while working and living at home.
On the other hand, parents can explore small Christian institutions, which encourage students to walk closely with the Lord, while providing a small student-teacher ratio so your child receives attention from their professors. If students are surrounded men and women who live their lives by the authority of Scripture, it's likely their commitment to morality will trickle down to the student population.
There are alternatives to the traditional university model parents should be exploring. The cost, both financially and to our children's lives, is just too great to do otherwise.
Dr. Finny Kuruvilla is the founder of Sattler College, a recently-founded Christian college in Boston. Sattler seeks to revolutionize the higher education model by providing rigorous core curriculum and Christian discipleship at an affordable cost. For more information or to apply, visit www.sattlercollege.org.