The Current Rankings, and the Future, of the Concordia Universities

Let’s start with full disclosure for all you skeptics and cynics. I am a graduate of Concordia Teacher’s College (predecessor to Concordia University-Chicago), River Forest, B.A., 1979 (hereafter any reference to “CU” means Concordia University or Concordia College). I have distant relatives (second cousins or farther removed) that have served, or are serving, as faculty, staff, or regents at CU-Portland, CU-Saint Paul, CU-Mequon, and CU-Chicago. I have good friends that have served, or are serving, at all ten Concordia schools as faculty, staff, or regents. Thus it is very hard for me to be prejudiced against any school without offending a relative or friend. So in many ways, I am a “fan” of them all!

Having said that, all things are not going well in “Concordia land.” Most folks know that CU-Ann Arbor has been “adopted” in some corporate-legal way by CU-Mequon (see Reporter June 2012, pp. 1 & 7). Ann Arbor has had “for years financial, enrollment, and administrative difficulties” (ibid.). What many people may not know is that the 2010 convention resolved that a task force be appointed by the LCMS Board of Directors in order to address the serious problem of the costs of higher education at the CU schools and the seminaries (see Resolution 4-04A in 2010 Convention Proceedings, p. 120). That task force is supposed to report to the convention in 2013, so we should be hearing about its recommendations soon.

In the meantime, families are making decisions about where to send their youth to college. Is a Concordia University suitable for their college and vocational goals? Is it affordable? Are the programs and schools respected by non-LCMS folks?

Every young person considering college has to look at their own goals and resources first. If he or she wants to be an engineer, a CU school may not be for him or her, since the CU schools only offer “Pre-Engineering,” not a B.S. in an Engineering field. It doesn’t make sense for a young person to attend a university or college that doesn’t have a major in their desired field of endeavor. More significant in my mind: no young person should take on debt that they won’t be able to start repaying after graduation-and in a relatively short period of time. Financial limits for families are real and should be faced realistically, head-on, before signing on the dotted lines.

How are the CU schools ranked, or viewed by others, today? Washington Monthly 44 # 9/10 (Sept/Oct 2012) has rankings that emphasize and reward schools that contribute to society: 1) by helping persons of lower classes move up, 2) by sponsoring research to help society, and 3) by actively encouraging participation in service activity, such as Peace Corps, ROTC, or Habitat for Humanity. The rankings this year don’t list any CU school. I don’t know the reason for this, but the magazine says that it did not include schools that failed to report “social mobility factors” for the last three years, i.e., % of Pell grants in student body, graduation rates, and net price.

US News and World Report-Best Colleges, 2013 Edition is more helpful. It has lots of good advice for people thinking about college for the first time. Its rankings emphasize and reward schools that are the most prestigious and whose students have the highest academic achievement. The rankings this year list all the CU schools. One article in the front of the magazine is titled “A Plus Schools for B Students.” That article and its listings includes two CU schools, under “Regional Universities–Midwest.” Those schools are CU-Seward and CU-Mequon (see p. 27). Our other CU schools are not mentioned at all in this article.

A word is necessary on the US News and World Report (hereafter USNWR) categories. These categories and the ranking methods have changed over the years since USNWR first published its annual review of colleges. The editors have listened to their critics and now have a ranking system that is hard to criticize, unless you don’t believe that academic achievement is important. Regarding categories, “National Universities” draw students from around the country, and offer bachelor, masters, and doctorate degrees, with some also sponsoring pure research (e.g., “fellows,” corporate-sponsored, government-sponsored). “National Liberal Arts Colleges” also draw students from around the country, emphasize the bachelor degree in the arts and sciences, and have less than 50% degrees awarded in business, nursing, or education. None of our CU schools are in these two categories.

“Regional Universities” draw students primarily from their own region, and offer both bachelor and masters degrees. “Regional Colleges” draw students primarily from their own region, and offer bachelor degrees, with over 50% of those degrees awarded in business, nursing, or education. All of our CU schools are in these two categories.

If you think about the recent history of CU schools, all of the schools were “Regional Colleges” until a few started adding master degrees, I think in the 1970s. So overall, among all the CU schools, there has been growth and development that is commendable. The leaders of the individual schools and the leaders of the CU system should be given credit for that.

Here are the 2013 USNWR rankings for the CU “Regional Colleges” in descending order: Bronxville (North region), #29 (p. 103); Selma (South region), second tier (p. 106); Ann Arbor (Midwest region), unranked (p. D-65).

Here are the 2013 USNWR rankings for the CU “Regional Universities” in descending order: Seward (Midwest region), #54 (p. 94); Irvine (West region), #66 (p. 100); Mequon (Midwest region), #70 (p. 94); Chicago (Midwest region), #80 (p. 96); St. Paul (Midwest region), #93 (p. 96); Portland (West region), second tier (p. 101); and Austin (West region), second tier (p. 101).

Two years ago, First Things ran their own rankings of “church schools” that rankled plenty of feathers (see First Things #207 [Nov. 2010]). Although they did not have column reviews of LCMS schools, they did have two CUs in their lists. CU-Mequon received citation as one of several “Best Seriously Protestant School, Honorable Mention” (p. 26) and as fifth out of five “Schools on the Rise Filled with Excitement” (p. 34). Valparaiso University, not a CU school but in the LCMS orbit, was ranked worst out of five “Schools in Decline Filled with Gloom” (p. 35). I wonder where that ranking for Valpo came from, though I am not surprised.

So that is how the CU schools rate today, based on the most recent rankings available to the public. Of course, these rankings cannot evaluate individual faculty members. I know there are many CU faculty who are stellar in ability and commitment, but because of their position lack prestige, gifted students, and research-and-publishing opportunities. Such faculty have made the hard decision to sacrifice academic opportunities at other schools, because they are devoted to serving the church and its youth. Such faculty deserve the church’s esteem, thanks, honors, long sabbaticals, better pay, etc., etc. Of course, there are other faculty that bring disrepute to them all, which is a real shame (for example, see here.)

Since all of the CU schools are categorized as “Regional,” it suggests that one answer to the question of “Which CU school should I attend?”, other things being equal, is “The one in your region.” For example, if you live in the West, and both Irvine and Bronxville offer the same major, why move to Bronxville? Irvine is the logical choice for you, since the majority of its students will be from the West, it will save you significant transportation costs, and post-graduation job opportunities will likely lead to residence in the West. This is one reason the LCMS has founded and supported schools in different US regions.

On the other hand, some schools are clearly behind others in prestige and student academic achievement. CU-Ann Arbor, CU-Austin, and CU-Portland are second-tier schools according to the USNWR ranking. In the same ranking, CU-Chicago and CU-Saint Paul rank lower than their Midwest rivals: CU-Mequon and CU-Seward. For CU schools per USNWR, Irvine is the “best in the West,” while Bronxville is doing comparatively well for its size. Selma can’t be compared to the others, because of its role as a Historic Black College or University. USNWR says “Increasingly, the nation’s top historically black colleges and universities are an appealing option for applicants of all races” (pp. 44-45). Thus this year, in the “college bowl” of public rankings, Irvine, Seward, and Mequon are in the winner’s circle and can be confidently recommended to any Lutheran.

What about the future of the CU schools? The 2013 convention report will say a lot about that from a fiscal perspective, but frankly I am concerned. Almost all of the ELCA, WELS, and ELS schools are ranked higher than the CU schools by USNWR. But even these non-CU-Lutheran schools are ranked significantly lower than the big public schools or the well-endowed private schools. Will the continued lower ranking of the Lutheran schools lead to decline in their funding and enrollments? Is Ann Arbor the “canary in the coal mine”? I don’t know, but it is a concern.

Why is this happening? In Germany, Scandinavia, and the Baltics, the Lutherans had–and still have–great universities that produced some of the leading thinkers, scholars, authors, inventors, scientists, engineers, etc. in the 16th to 20th century. On the heritage and unique contribution of Lutheran universities, see my article “The Lutheran Mind and Its University” in LOGIA Reformation 2008 (You can get the electronic version for a reasonable fee here.)

Why has the LCMS produced “A Plus Schools for B Students,” to use the phrase from USNWR, but nothing more excellent academically in the 21st century? I don’t know, but I would think by now that the LCMS could have produced at least one “Regional University” that was near the top of the list or a top notch “National University.” Have we devoted our resources to quantity of schools instead of quality? These are questions that the 2013 report can’t answer, because I don’t think they were posed. Thoughtful CU faculty and academic administrators might start asking those questions among themselves. The future of the CU schools, apart from their essential function as church-worker schools, may depend on it.

For more information on the CU schools, click on these links:
LCMS — Concordia University System
Campus Majors and Programs
LCMS — Concordia University System Campuses


Comments

The Current Rankings, and the Future, of the Concordia Universities — 44 Comments

  1. Concordia St. Paul recently announced that they
    will cut tuition by $10,000 for the next school
    year for all students. This will make it about
    $19,000 with no cuts in faculty. They are to
    be applauded.

  2. System-wide enrollment increases 2 percent

    For fall 2012, the Concordia University System institutions report an estimated increase in student enrollment of 2 percent compared with figures for fall 2011.

    An additional 443 enrolled students raises the total headcount from 28,421 in 2011 to 28,864 in 2012. This marks 21 consecutive years of continuous growth in enrollment since the inception of the Concordia University System.

    A complete statistical report will appear in the January issue of the Concordia Chronicle.

    Concordia University System Chronicle
    October 2012

  3. Concordia University, St. Paul, cuts tuition by $10,000

    In a bold move designed to make the cost of a private education more affordable, Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., is decreasing the annual tuition for its traditional undergraduate program by $10,000.

    The tuition decrease — which takes effect next fall with the 2013-14 academic year — will be available to new and current students. It represents a 33 percent cut from the 2012-13 tuition price of $29,700, bringing annual tuition to $19,700. The price of room and board will remain at its 2012-13 level for 2013-14.

    “In resetting our tuition to a price last seen a decade ago, we are responding to the concerns of students and families who feel our nation’s colleges have become unaffordable,” said Concordia President Rev. Tom Ries. “We hope that other private colleges and universities will soon be able to follow our lead.”

    Nothing will be cut or eliminated from the Concordia educational experience, in or out of the classroom, to accommodate the tuition reset, administrators say.

    Reporter
    October 2012

  4. Before we are tempted to beat up on the Concordias consider the following:

    They each were established to prepare church workers for service in LCMS congregations.

    How many LCMS congregations and Lutheran schools still insist every member of their staff be Synodically trained and certified?

    The LCMS subsidized all LCMS institutions heavily. But no longer. Why? Because the LCMS districts have over the years kept more of the income they received from LCMS congregations to fun their buildings and their programs and their administrative structures. Why?

    The LCMS made, in my opinion, a big mistake in the 1970s by turning what were two year prep schools into full four year colleges. None other than the grand master still living of all Concordia Colleges, Dr. Paul Zimmerman, pleaded with JAO Preus not to do this, but he basically did it by a grand presidential fiat.

    So, there is a reason why our colleges and universities are what they are. And while we may wish to complain about what they do, or do not, do, when The LCMS effectively has cut them adrift financially and no longer longer sends them students to prepare for church work, they are basically in a position of having to do what they are now doing.

    Just another side of the coin on these issues.

  5. “LC-MS Quotes” :
    Concordia University, St. Paul, cuts tuition by $10,000
    In a bold move designed to make the cost of a private education more affordable, Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., is decreasing the annual tuition for its traditional undergraduate program by $10,000.
    The tuition decrease — which takes effect next fall with the 2013-14 academic year — will be available to new and current students. It represents a 33 percent cut from the 2012-13 tuition price of $29,700, bringing annual tuition to $19,700. The price of room and board will remain at its 2012-13 level for 2013-14.
    “In resetting our tuition to a price last seen a decade ago, we are responding to the concerns of students and families who feel our nation’s colleges have become unaffordable,” said Concordia President Rev. Tom Ries. “We hope that other private colleges and universities will soon be able to follow our lead.”
    Nothing will be cut or eliminated from the Concordia educational experience, in or out of the classroom, to accommodate the tuition reset, administrators say.
    Reporter
    October 2012

    That’s actually more of a financial shell game than a reality. They “cut tuition” but also lowered discounts and lowered tuition subsidies, etc.

    It did garner good media attention and PR.

  6. I think Pr. Noland raises an interesting question regarding the number of colleges in the Concordia System. If regional colleges are desired, how many should there be? Is Ann Arbor really a different region from Mequon, or River Forest or St. Paul? Would students be better served by having four regional colleges (a North, South, East and West perhaps) that could achieve better economies of scale serving 6 to 8,000 students apiece than the current system model?

    Further, if one wants to look at cost, value and numbers – what programs, majors and departments should be included at each school, and what majors, programs and departments do not really fit in with the mission of the colleges? A solid review of programs and unviersity size may lead to the Concordias being able to concentrate on providing better liberal arts education in fewer locations and then seeing a concomitant rise in rankings. Maybe. Just a thought.

  7. Will the CSP financial aid package remain the same as before, or is this just resetting the tuition from the sticker price to a ‘sale’ price that most students actually pay? Otherwise it seems impossible to cut tuition by a third and have everything else remain the same. Good move by CSP in any case. Great analysis by Dr. Noland.

  8. A real case could be made for closing Ann Arbor
    and Portland. Not too many would notice the
    difference. Our Universities in Milwaukee,
    Irvine, and Seward are probably the strongest.

  9. Those of us without EID and password for portland webmail might appreciate an abstract of that article.

  10. Oops. It was actually a graphic showing how enrollment has doubled in the last 5 years. In the last year alone, 500 additional students are enrolled, bringing the total enrollment to over 3,100 students.

  11. My apology to Rev. Scott Yakimow, I was looking at
    the wrong enrollment figures and should have said
    Bronxville instead of Portland.

  12. Excellent post by Dr. Noland, as always.

    There is a reason why, during the Middle Ages, monastic organizations did not tend to reform themselves but instead, in the midst of degeneration, spawned new organizations. At a certain point, continued existence became the primary purpose of the order. Too many people required the existence of that order for their own livelihoods to make its dissolution or even significant reform thinkable. Besides, they were almost entirely independent financially from Rome.

    In some ways our schools are even worse off. I remember in the 80s how those at Winfield justified the diversification of the student body in terms of Christian mission when it was clear that the primary goal was essentially to save the school through increased enrollment. You could not blame them too much. But I wonder if we can sensibly think this can be turned any more. This is not a question of being hopeless, but simply of realizing where our finite energies should now be spent.

  13. My daughter is a freshman at Concordia University Chicago – the first in our family to attend a CUS school. I could not be more pleased with her choice. Frankly, the secular rankings mean nothing to me. She is a part of a community that such rankings cannot measure nor contemplate. I am grateful to our LCMS forebearers and the current adminstration, faculty and staff of CUC for providing an option that is perfect for her and her fellow students.

    We need to support our LCMS schools and honor them for what they are – a uniquely Lutheran system.

  14. There was a time when River Forest, St. Paul, and
    Seward were factories for producing teachers for
    our Lutheran elementary schools across America.
    However, those days have been over for some
    time. Our ten Concordia Universities offer the option
    for many different careers beside teachers.

    We need to embrace the fact that our Concordias
    are a positive part of the college scene in our
    nation. Yes, they need to maintain their Lutheran
    identity and at the same time equip our young men
    and women to become strong Christian leaders.

  15. CUC was the right fit for her. She went from ambiguous about college to excited during her first visit. Her friends are devout Lutherans – many of whom are heading towards service in the Church. Each school is different and might not be the right one for every student. As a father, I am very pleased with her choice.

  16. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #5

    Yes, according to the college board, CUSP average financial aid package was over $20k. Only 46% graduate within 6 years and only 67% return for the sophomore year. With such dreadful numbers, perhaps a social science professor (Dr. Dewey, I am looking at you) might take an interest in the characteristics of students who do stay and graduate. I, for one, would like to know what percent of students from LCMS families graduate within 6 years, return for their sophomore year, and how much financial aid they receive. Those questions are more interesting than some transgender yada yada. It could even be broadened to other denominations. How do students from a denomination fare in their own denominational colleges? Seems like salient social science research for professors with normal healthy interest in sociology who work at Christian colleges. (Sorry for being such a stinker)

  17. With a drop out rate of one third after the freshman
    year, Concordia St. Paul has a shocking statistic.

    The question I have, Is the dropout rate due to finances
    or academic failure? How does this compare with the
    other nine Concordias?

  18. Maybe someone here knows how to find a report generated by the CUS that is something like this one from Calvin College in Michigan. FWIW, according to the report, they have almost half of their student body from their denomination and their graduation rate is about 75% in 6 years. This sort of report reflects a healthy interest in monitoring how well the institution is serving its mission to provide a quality education:

    http://www.calvin.edu/admin/enrollment/day1008/report.htm

  19. @Dave Likeness #19

    Concordia Chicago freshman returning for sophomore year is 63.0%.

    https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-university-search/print-college-profile?id=1568

    Again, it would be interesting to know how many are from LCMS families.

    Overall 60% graduate within 6 years. So, almost all those who can’t graduate figure it out before they have a mountain of debt. At St. Paul 67% come back for more but only 46% graduate. That has to be painful for those 21% that have two or three years of debt racked up, no degree and but not much more earning power than when they entered.

  20. …the 2010 convention resolved that a task force be appointed by the LCMS Board of Directors in order to address the serious problem of the costs of higher education at the CU schools and the seminaries (see Resolution 4-04A in 2010 Convention Proceedings, p. 120).

    Indeed. Tuition repayment is a serious problem for most former college students. Follow the link below and click on a state to read the testimonials:

    http://studentloanjustice.org/victims.htm

    Are the programs and schools respected by non-LCMS folks?

    Only two types of universities should be avoided: 1.) Universities that have a well-known reputation for being “party schools”; and 2.) “Strip mall colleges” and online universities have a reputation for being “easy” and horribly overpriced for-profit degree granting institutions. Potential employers tend to throw job applications from graduates of either type of school into the trash can.

    US News and World Report-Best Colleges, 2013 Edition is more helpful.

    US News and World Report sends out an annual survey to all of the highest ranking university administrators (university presidents, provosts, etc) in the country. They are given a list of ‘universities, and they are asked to fill out a “fill in the bubbles” scantron-style survey regarding their impressions of various universities in the USA. In short, ladies and gentlemen, the survey is subjective and non-scientific. It is disturbing that the general public interprets US News and World Report as a credible source when shopping for a university education.

    Regional Colleges” draw students primarily from their own region, and offer bachelor degrees, with over 50% of those degrees awarded in business, nursing, or education. All of our CU schools are in these two categories.

    Liberal Arts degrees, although of academic value, are absolutely worthless in the job market. Although “soft skills” are nice, employers want workers to have practical skills. They do not want to spend any time or money training their employees how to do a job. Need a job after graduation? Major in a job title such as in business, nursing, or in education.

    Solutions

    Sell the Concordias in Ann Arbor and in Bronxville. Use the proceeds to establish a permanent endowment to pay the salaries of all the seminary employees. Reduce seminary tuition to that of a community college. This would make seminary an easy financial decision for anyone who felt called to the ministry.

    Realize that students can and should take general education classes at community colleges instead of at pricey four year schools. Eliminate all freshman and sophmore level courses at the Concordias. Convert the Concordias from four year universities to junior and senior two year transfer schools for the completion of undergrad degrees. Let them offer a few popular masters degree programs. Establish partnerships with community colleges to send students to the Concordias to finish their bachelors. New motto for the Concordias: “The place to finish what you started.”

    Would be it possible to merge some of the Concordias in a given region? For example, it would be better to have one Concordia in a region with 6,000 students than to have two Concordias comprising 3,000 students each.

    Regarding regional seminaries, the LCMS should move Fort Wayne to a western state (Colorado?) Let St. Louis serve the eastern half of the USA. The relocated Fort Wayne seminary could serve the western half.

  21. Lumpenkönig :
    Reduce seminary tuition to that of a community college. This would make seminary an easy financial decision for anyone who felt called to the ministry.

    Why not follow the model at the military academies? Four years of “free” education in exchange for 5 years of service afterwards. If the student reneges on the agreement to serve, only then do they get the bill for tuition and fees.

    Regarding regional seminaries, the LCMS should move Fort Wayne to a western state (Colorado?) Let St. Louis serve the eastern half of the USA. The relocated Fort Wayne seminary could serve the western half.

    Do you really consider St. Louis part of the East? Those of us who live here don’t even consider Fort Wayne part of the East. Of course, it’s all relative: When I served in McCook, Nebraska, and they spoke of going “back east,” they meant Lincoln or Omaha…

  22. Dave Ramsey on student loan debt.

    http://www.daveramsey.com/index.cfm?event=askdave/&intContentItemId=122967

    excerpt:

    …I love stay-at-home moms. But you know the number one reason I’m finding out now that people can’t stay home with their kids? It’s their freaking student loan stupidity! I’m not mad at this particular lady that just called. This concept is driving me bananas!

    If you have a 20-year-old or an 18-year-old walking around, grab them by the ear and tell them they should not get a useless degree from a private university that you cannot making a living with and then choose to go home and be a stay-at-home mom with $100,000 in student loan debt.

    This is how life happens. You say you’re going to be a professional at something and then you change your mind—YOU LOST THAT OPTION! You lose these options when you go this far in debt. You are forced into a situation where you are choosing between your children and student loan debt to get a useless degree!

    You know what a psychology degree without a master’s degree is worth? NOTHING! Nothing! Absolutely nothing! … You know what a theology degree from Columbia is worth? NOTHING! It has no marketplace value! Think, people!

    …Stupidity with education choices is about as paradoxical as anything I can think of. It’s got to stop. It’s destroying the American family. It’s destroying the economy. It’s ridiculous!

    I wonder how many families are so burdened by debt that they can’t afford to send their kids to Lutheran day schools. Even if they managed to pay off student loan debt by the time the kids are school aged, it may have left them with so little reserve they cannot invest in their children.

  23. @Lumpenkönig #22
    Regarding regional seminaries, the LCMS should move Fort Wayne to a western state (Colorado?) Let St. Louis serve the eastern half of the USA. The relocated Fort Wayne seminary could serve the western half.

    Interesting that “move the seminary” ideas alway involve Ft Wayne! 🙁

    Indiana is further “East” than St Louis and very near to Michigan which has about 10% of the LCMS population, plus more in surrounding states. If you want to move a seminary, why don’t you suggest moving CSL… to Texas, maybe. Some people dread the snow, and the prevailing philosophy seems to be more compatible. 8-^)

  24. @Mrs. Hume #24
    You know what a theology degree from Columbia is worth? NOTHING! It has no marketplace value! Think, people!

    A theology degree for a girl, from a CUS school, is equally worthless.
    Why do the school counselors let this happen without even requiring some secretarial skills, or a second concentration and a teaching minor, for graduation?

    [Seminarians need a second string to their bow, too, as things are now.]

  25. @Pastor Ted Crandall #23

    @helen #25

    I have no bias toward either seminary. St. Louis is considered “east” for someone who lives in a state west of the Midwest. Leave St. Louis alone, as the larger St. Louis metropolitan area would tend to be a more attractive draw for potential students than Fort Wayne. Few people would deliberately choose to live in Indiana (I have lived there). According to Google maps, the driving distance from Fort Wayne to St. Louis is 375 miles. You don’t like Denver? Fine. Relocate the “Fort” to either Phoenix or Boise. Both seminaries are located in the Midwest and are geographically too close. The western half of the country needs a confessional Lutheran stronghold.

  26. @Mrs. Hume #24
    I wonder how many families are so burdened by debt that they can’t afford to send their kids to Lutheran day schools. Even if they managed to pay off student loan debt by the time the kids are school aged, it may have left them with so little reserve they cannot invest in their children.

    I would also add that student loan debt causes young people to delay getting married and having children. They move back home with mom and dad and fritter away the next seven years after graduation trying to change careers by returning to school for a more “marketable” degree. When these college grads finally get married in their 30’s and do have children, they have one or two instead of three or four. Money that would have gone to support the Lutheran day schools is instead spend on servicing crushing student loan repayments and on saving money in accounts for the children’s college tuition fund.

    Tuition should be restructured so that documented members of the LCMS would be charged significantly less than non-LCMS students. If “being a Lutheran no longer matters” than I am certain that those non-denominational students would not mind paying a higher tuition rate, right? The Mormons at BYU succeed with such a structure, so why shouldn’t the Concordias and the Lutheran day schools try it?

    The Concordias really need to stop competing with other private schools. Make in-state tuition the same as out of state tuition. Let the Concordias work with the community colleges and give the overpriced state schools some real competition.

    @Dave Likeness #19
    I have a “hunch” that the high dropout rate may also be attributed to boredom. Many students view their tiny universities as commuter schools. As the quality of student life is not related to academics, student life is not a high priority for many small schools.

  27. @Lumpenkönig #28
    Leave St. Louis alone, as the larger St. Louis metropolitan area would tend to be a more attractive draw for potential students than Fort Wayne.

    Do we need seminarians mesmerized by bright lights when most of our churches are still in rural, small and medium sized towns? Will they teach “urban ministry” such as is being tried in Philadelphia, and if so, how many of the “bright lights seekers” are really interested in such?

    We need Pastors who concentrate on seminary studies,
    not on the St Louis equivalent of 6th street (Austin’s bar scene).
    [If they go so deeply in debt for school, I doubt they can afford the symphony, even if they were so disposed.]

  28. According to the Sept. 2012 Lutheran Witness we
    have Ann Arbor with 519 undergrad students and
    Bronxville with 819. Mequon has 4,372, and St.
    Paul has 1,692 at the other end of the scale.

    Everyone knows that Ann Arbor is on life-support,
    and needs a miracle to recover. I would hope
    that the Synodical Convention in 2013 would take
    the necessary steps to create a Task Force to
    look at the financial stability of our 10 Concordia
    Universities.

  29. Dave Likeness :
    With a drop out rate of one third after the freshman
    year, Concordia St. Paul has a shocking statistic.
    The question I have, Is the dropout rate due to finances
    or academic failure? How does this compare with the
    other nine Concordias?

    If you will do some checking, you will find that a 32% drop-out rate after the freshman year is about the national average.

  30. The question we need to ask. “What is the purpose of the schools?” Now some will say it is to provide a well rounded Christian education. Others to provide the workers need, teachers and Pastors etc.. for the congregations of the synod. This is a debate we need to have.

    It seems to me, I am a Concordia AA graduate and St. Louis Seminary graduate. That our schools have become more and more independent of synod. When I attended A2 my first year, maybe into the 2nd, we had to do Synod Hours. (anybody else remember those?) Each student had to give the school some labor, in appreciation of the Syodical Support given to the school. This stopped by the third year because the school was getting less and less money from synod. How much is synod giving in support to the schools and our seminaries? As the old saying goes, he who controls the purse controls the actions.

    We have a lot of issues, the LC-MS is getting smaller, Baptism and the corresponding rate of confirmations is not good, which ties into what do we do with our colleges?

    There is no simple fix, no magic wand to wave to make things better. The best thing we can do is be faithful to what we believe and teach, the Gospel in all it truth and purity. From that will flow wise decisions.

    Further if we want to reach the college age we need good, confessional, conservative, anti-culture campus ministries. Which makes MN South selling of the University of Minnesota Chapel most foolish and sinful at the best.

  31. @Lumpenkönig #22

    Dear “Lumpenkonig,”

    I appreciate many of your comments in #22 and agree with them. I too have been skeptical, at times, about the USNWR rankings. But you dismiss their methodology too quickly. The annual survey of college administrators is only one factor that goes into their rankings, I think about 20%. It may have been the only factor in years past, but no longer. They also look at the SAT scores and GPAs of admitted freshmen, predicted and actual graduation rates, and just about anything that could measure academic achievement “across the board” of different universities.

    The best way to measure academic achievement would be to have all graduating seniors take senior exams of the same type as their entrance exams (SAT and ACT), and then look at actual scores (that is, schools with the highest scoring students) and actual improved scores (that is, schools which had students with the greatest increase in abilities). But USNWR can’t force colleges or students to do that, so we have what colleges want – they really don’t want comparisons for a variety of reasons.

    TO ALL BJS READERS:

    I did not write this post with the intent of denigrating the CUS schools. But the financial issue clearly has to be faced by the synod, and it will be coming to the convention in 2013 (I assume the Board of Directors is working on it). So it would be good to have some kind of thought and discussion on this blog, and other places, before we start talking dollars and cents.

    I think a perfectly legitimate and non-offensive discussion is based on this question: How can we practically achieve the goals of CUS, in the most cost-efficient way possible, with the greatest possible benefit to students and their families. As Paul McCain pointed out here: http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=23550#comment-444512 — the decision to set up the present system, as it currently exists, was pretty much a presidential fiat, against the protests of someone who actually knew the fiscal and enrollment states of the colleges (Dr. Paul Zimmerman).

    No one should propose getting rid of a college because they ran into a professor they didn’t like – we all have had those, you know! The synod has to think these things through carefully and logically, on the best available data. USNWR is just one set of data, and I quote it, because it is available to the public.

    Here is my opinion: Our CUS schools are essential to having church-workers. If we don’t train them in CUS, we will have to do it some other way that may be less practical, more expensive, and less beneficial to the students.

    Our CUS schools are also useful for Lutherans whose field of study has a Lutheran approach. There are lots of fields where Lutherans can make “uniquely Lutheran” contributions. It is also useful to Lutherans who like Lutheran education, even if there is nothing specifically Lutheran in their major.

    I don’t see a lot of use, however, for us to educate people who aren’t or don’t want to be Lutheran. That is not a good use of our resources. We can’t reject those students, but we shouldn’t plan around them. Does that make sense?

    This means, according to my view, that the total Lutheran student population (TLSP) of our CUS schools defines what is of real value there. This TLSP is what should determine our CUS decisions. Does it presently ? I don’t know. That is part of the discussion.

    Thanks for everyone’s comments so far!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  32. On Dr. Jon Bruss’ blog, Renascentes Musae, he has put significant thought into what it means to provide a Lutheran college education, and how it could be provided in a cost-effective manner.

    This is from the home page:

    “This blog is devoted to searching for and articulating a theologically faithful and intellectually responsible rationale for Lutheran higher education on the basis of Wittenberg Christian Humanism and to imagining what renascentes Musae might look like in 21st-century North American confessional Lutheranism.”
    http://renascentesmusae.blogspot.com
    Here is one fairly recent posting directly relevant to the discussion:

    http://renascentesmusae.blogspot.com/2012/08/can-lutherans-lead-with-price-and.html

    Dr. Bruss also recommends a book on this topic available from CPH: “Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future” by Thomas Korcok.

  33. @Martin R. Noland #35
    I don’t see a lot of use, however, for us to educate people who aren’t or don’t want to be Lutheran. That is not a good use of our resources. We can’t reject those students, but we shouldn’t plan around them. Does that make sense?

    Agreed. These rules should also apply to Lutheran grade schools and church-sponsored daycare providers.

    Why should a non-member agree to send her kid to the local LCMS grade school and then insist that she does not want her kid to learn that baptizing babies is ok? Why should a Lutheran college, university or even a Lutheran campus religious center water down the worship and study materials to make it resemble generic non-denominational protestantism out of fear of offending the students?

    Why should a member of the church have to pay the same rates as a non-member. When it is time to raise tuition rates, then raise them for non-members.

  34. Dr. Noland, you wrote: “I don’t see a lot of use, however, for us to educate people who aren’t or don’t want to be Lutheran. That is not a good use of our resources. We can’t reject those students, but we shouldn’t plan around them. Does that make sense?”

    In many places throughout the world, we plant Lutheran schools not only to educate Lutherans but as a way to proclaim the Gospel to those who may never have heard it before they arrive at the school. It provides both salt and light to populations who have yet to come to Christ and is an effective way to accomplish this.

    While one can engage in “religious studies” at a state school, this is a very different experience than studying with a “theology” department at one of our Concordias. You are much more free to teach theology in a Christian way rather than as a way to dissect the faith, and this serves a purpose furthering the proclamation of the Gospel.

    Many people have no idea what is good for them. I have yet to meet a 4th grade child with a passion for times tables nor am I acquainted with a tween or early teenager who loves to diagram sentences. Both, however, are good for them, and they have to be taught why they should care and catch a love for math and clear expression of thought.

    Likewise, many students show up at Concordias with no idea of Lutheranism and no desire to learn it, but the Holy Spirit works through what is taught to kindle faith and with that faith, a burgeoning desire to learn good theology.

    In short, I find the implication in what you wrote that our schools are primarily and mostly for Lutherans to be short sighted. Our schools are indeed for Lutherans, but they are also for those who may become Lutheran through an encounter with the Word taught there.

  35. @Paul #37

    That’s only part of the reason. I understand there was a time when Synod paid a state-side missionary his salary for the first couple of years, while he built up a congregation that could support a pastor. (Can any of you guys older than I am testify to that?) Now they only pay the salaries of mission executives — and it isn’t for just a couple of years. And most “mother” churches are so obsessed with becoming mega-churches that they are not interested in “loaning” any of their precious number to help spawn daughter churches.

  36. @Rev. Scott Yakimow #39

    Dear Professor Yakimow,

    You are one of the reasons that I am hoping for better days at CU-Portland. Congratulations on your new position there as a professor of theology!

    I don’t disagree with what you said in your comment.

    My thinking in my post was based on several facts: the fiscal bankruptcy of CU-Ann Arbor, Resolution 4-04A of the 2010 convention, the overwhelming problem of church-worker student debt, and the public rankings of the CUS schools. Three of those facts are about money. These facts cannot be debated or shunted aside; nor should we over-react to them.

    Regarding non-Lutheran students, I said “We can’t reject those students, but we shouldn’t plan around them.”

    “Planning” in administrative terms means matching projected fiscal, property-building-equipment, and personnel resources to desired goals, specific outcomes, projected services, and/or products.

    If the synod says, “Our desired goal is to serve all the students in the US with affordable higher education,” which is an enormous population, then the resource side of the equation has to be equally enormous.

    But the LCMS and its CUS schools have limited resources, as the Treasurer of Synod and any of our top administrators can attest. If you plan to serve every possible student, the result is either bankruptcy, or the vast majority of costs going directy to the students–thus the overwhelming church-worker student debt factor.

    Any sane planning policy is going to start with a limited population. I think a reasonable population is the present total Lutheran student population (TLSP), as I said previously. The most recent published data on that is in the Reporter, December 2011, CUS Chronicle insert, p. 1. Fall 2011 has a CUS headcount of 28,421. TLSP is 30% of that population, i.e., 8,526 students. Church-worker students are 6.2% of the CUS headcount, i.e., 1,762 students.

    I am not going to do all the math and equations here online, but it is not difficult to do. I have done it several times in the past thirty years, but not recently. Here is how you do it:

    First, since the highest priority SHOULD BE church-worker students, set a tuition+other-costs figure for them that, together with work-study, grants, etc., will leave the frugal and industrious church-worker student with zero debt when they graduate. Use the current # of church-worker students to calculate revenue.

    Second, since the second priority SHOULD BE Lutheran students, set a tuition+other-costs figure for them that is competitive against the most inexpensive+good-quality private colleges. Calculate revenue based on the TLSP.

    Third, based on the TLSP, the two previous calculations, and estimated eligibility for Pell and other federal or state grants, calculate your total annual operating revenue.

    Fourth, put all undesignated gifts from alumni and donors into endowment (this should be standard policy for non-profits anyway). Then estimate annual interest proceeds from endowments and other assets that can be used that way.

    Fifth, then scale down your costs to match your total revenue. Don’t forget to pay back the debt to LCMS.

    This results in a CUS system where church-worker students graduate without debt and where Lutheran students get a relatively good bargain for their education. It also means that if you enroll a number of students above the TLSP, that each student increases income. That is sane fiscal policy.

    Insane fiscal policy was in force at the Saint Louis seminary for a couple of years in the first part of the century, where every additional student pushed the seminary further into debt. That was not the president or seminary board of regents fault. The seminary did that only because it was mandated by the LCMS. Let’s hope we don’t try that idea again!

    I don’t know why all of our CUS schools could not, eventually, all be listed as “A+ Schools for B Students.” The administrators at our other colleges need to meet with Mequon and Seward to find out what they are doing right. It would be nice, but not necessary, to have one of those schools that was also more academically challenging for the gifted students in the LCMS.

    I know that the Resolution 4-04A committee meets this month. It will be interesting to see what they recommend.

    Professor Yakimow, I hope you enjoy Portland. It is a booming metropolis with lots of great places to visit for those who love the great outdoors, as well as significant cultural venues.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  37. I believe many of you are overlooking the bold statement that LCMS needs an affiliated world class university. Valpo once had that potential, but we can’t live in the past. Too many seem concerned how to maintain institutions that are little more than community colleges with a Lutheran heart, while ignoring the need to create GREAT universities.

  38. I will be the contrarian today. I thought the goal of the Concordia college system was supposed to be to prepare men and women to take up called positions in local congregations. That focus has been lost. Now less than 10% of all students at the Concordias are preparing for church work. My recommendation would be that the Synod pick two schools for preparing church workers, and sell, close, or cut loose all the others. Otherwise we have a system that will increasingly be secular and follow the wisdom of the world. We already have too much of this and it will not stop if we continue on the present course.

    We don’t need “world class education.” What we need is Godly educated men and women to teach God’s word and spread the Gospel to the world. If we don’t return to that focus, the colleges will look more like Harvard and Notre Dame.

  39. I attended lcms grade schools and high school. My folks felt that the luth university waas not as good an education. And i remember the luth system pushed students in high school to go to concordia. Valpo not so much. I went to public university and i am thankful i did. I thought concordia univserities were only good for putting you back into the lutheran schools. Its too closed minded. I do not hate my early years education in lcms schools. But i dont believe that their education (im referring to their universities) puts u into the real world. Theyre too “pig headed”. Even though public university introduces one to topics im not fond of at least they clue u in on how the topics in the real world are as oppposed to the insular one of the lcms/wels.

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