Athanasius College: an alternative to old schools' hyperinflated tuition...

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It is time to apply for college. We want readers of Baylyblog to consider one new option, Athanasius College. While developing the program over the past two years, our commitments have been simple: to get back to traditional, orthodox Christian foundations in every aspect of our lives, including especially education.

Recently, we finalized tuition fees for our inaugural year and have released them here. They are affordable: $8,000 for a full-time student expecting to enroll in 12 to 18 hours, with additional rates starting at $500 a year for courses taken at IU. Students will not be eligible for federal funding—we’d have to be accredited for that. Instead, we expect them to make up the cost through summer and part-time jobs or other means.

The problem

In today’s higher education market, our price makes a difference. Here are a series of charts showing the scandal of the financial costs and benefits of higher education today. Take a look  at them.

Students can attend Athanasius College without burdening their future and their families with insurmountable debt. For most students, such debt has simply become the norm. According to a recent series of posts by the New York Times the average undergraduate debt now approaches $25,000, an average that does not take into account the cost of professional or graduate degrees, whose prices often soar past six digits. And, according to the same report, 9 percent of borrowers will have defaulted on these loans by the end of this year.

Tuition underlies this crisis. Harvard now charges $38,840 just for tuition, and the tuition charged by Christian colleges is not far behind. Here's a list of what various Christian colleges charge...

just for tuition:

  • $26,000: Calvin College
  • $27,000: Covenant College
  • $23,000: Geneva College
  • $37,000: Gordon College
  • $14,000: Grove City College
  • $22,000: Hillsdale College
  • $28,000: Messiah College
  • $28,000: Taylor University 
  • $27,000: The Masters College
  • $37,000: Westmont College
  • $30,000: Wheaton College

If the current trend of hyperinflated tuition charges continues, the cost will have doubled by 2016. College tuition far outruns inflation, creating a market where value no longer is commensurate with the price tag.

Playing the role of over-eager mortgage lenders, admissions counselors and college marketing teams play make-believe, promising jobs and benefits outweighing the risks of default and ruined credit. Students can defer payment until after graduation, and most don’t have the wisdom or experience to weigh what that commitment will mean in 4 to 8 years. So debt skyrockets, with 902 billion dollars in federal loans remaining unpaid as of the writing of the New York Times articles. In inverse relation to these skyrocketing loans is a dying job market where graduating students, burdened with debt, are faced with career prospects that simply will not cover their needs.

The New York Times’ answer to the crisis: implicitly blame debt collectors, an unforgiving conservative government, and college presidents. If Wall Street played the enemy in the recession, by analogy, the rich and those with power are to blame here. Complain until the government forgives the debt. Provide fodder for the now defunct Occupy Wall Street movement to raise its passive-aggressive head and whine.

What is our solution? Be forthright about prices, keeping them low enough so students can come to learn and graduate to live wise and godly lives. We are convinced we should train our highschoolers not to equate educational value with a high price tag, that we should teach ourselves that Harvard and Wheaton's education may not be worth their salt, and that we should all look for colleges trying to gain prestige, not through cost but what they do. What they teach and how their graduates think and live.

We must help our young men and women understand what they are buying when they look for a college. Yes, their education should prepare them for a career. Men need to be competent and able to provide for a family. But more than this, we want them searching for colleges that place Godly wisdom over vocational training and prestige. What good is it if we encourage our highschoolers to care about a career and success so much that they end up buying an education that destroys their faith? What help is it to push our sons and daughters into crippling debt and a terminal cancer of doubts and material pursuits eating away at their soul?

A hopeful, faithful answer

At Athanasius College, we will inoculate students against this cancer by sending them to IU, Bloomington, while holding them accountable to be bold and faithful witnesses on campus. We don’t expect 18 year olds to be fully prepared for such hard work. Instead, we will train them for the fight. Too often we expect young, impressionable souls to continue in the faith while immersed in a culture that despises everything they believe. Naively,  we think our children won't be wooed by wicked professors and that they won't have to struggle against the temptations of this world. The results? Hypocrisy, as students wear one face at church and home and another at college or university; then, eventually, apostasy. I have seen this enough times, in others and my own heart to assure you this is the number one danger your young college student will face--no matter how well you have trained them at home.

And the older women, elders, and pastors here at Athanasius will give you accounts of the apostasy of children who arrived here in Bloomington bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from their Christian home, but within a year or two turned their back on the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.

Yes, we have an excellent campus ministry and a student-friendly church, and these are a large part of the answer. But it has become increasingly clear to us that, as John Cardinal Newman said in The Idea of a University, the queen of the sciences is theology and a university without theology is like a body without a head.

We believe students should be taught to hold tightly to the Apostolic traditions while they study subjects not a part of the Apostolic traditions. And for reasons we won't go into here, we're convinced the study of the Apostolic traditions is best done alongside, and in combination with, a major secular research university. It shouldn't be set apart in the cornfields of Upland and Hillsdale, the strip malls of Grand Rapids, the outlet mall of Grove City, the bluebloods of Wenham, the nouveau riche of Santa Barbara, or the buildings lining the Chicago & Northwestern tracks in Wheaton.

We believe our children are best served by studying theology--the teaching of the Apostles--while they are immersed in the fight. Think of us as Athansius College of Indiana Unversity with two differences: there are no formal ties between Athanasius and IU, and IU is no Cambridge University. 

This is our vision, but we know the blight debt can be, so we've worked hard to keep tuition as low as possible so our students can afford an education that will profit both their souls and their minds.

We will not compromise our high academic standards. The program of study here at Athanasius College will be rigorous. We are committed to preparing our students for a vocation (you can read about it here, here, and here). Intellectual quality is not the issue. Students with unaccredited degrees can easily get into graduate school and land solid jobs. They will have no problem getting into medical school, law school, and the trade of their choice with an Athanasius College liberal arts degree. Some businesses are even favoring these students because they can actually think and write.

The secret is finally coming out: cost is no indication of educational value. Harvard and Yale are expensive, and other colleges coveting a similar reputation raise their prices thinking this will help parents think of them as Harvard and Yale's kissing cousins. Having to pay more money leads parents and students to think that money will get them better professors and the best resources. But in today’s academic environment, parents footing the bill should be stopping to ask who, exactly, they are paying so much to teach their sons and daughters? If they're paying so much to these men and women to profess, they should ask what exactly these men and women are professing?

Very often the answer is professors profess damnable lies.

By God's grace, our profs will profess wisdom and truth.

And if you are wondering whether, at this price, our faculty have merit; if your money will buy your student a worthwhile education; the answer is yes. First, our faculty will have credentials. They will have Harvard and research-one institution backed degrees. They will be proven teachers. Second, they will be scrutinized for spiritual and character qualifications by a Board of Trustees appointed by Clearnote Fellowship.

We will strive to discipline and admonish and exhort our students as they learn to fight the good fight. We will pray for them and do everything in our power to guard their souls.

All the money in the world will not buy you that from Yale.

If you are interested in this sort of education for your son or daughter or know others you think would benefit from knowing about us, an application for matriculation Fall of 2013 is available here.

Finally, we have a special request for all Baylyblog readers: would you please pray for our efforts?

Thank you.

Brandon Chasteen

Brandon came to Bloomington in 2007 to pursue graduate studies in English Literature at Indiana University. Brandon currently serves as Vice President of Athanasius College, as well as teaches rhetoric to the high school students at the Bloomington Christian Schoolhouse. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, writing short stories, and barbecuing briskets in the proud tradition of his home state, Texas.