By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In our world, wrote Benjamin Franklin, nothing is certain except death and taxes.
And maybe this: Total enrollment in the Synod’s 10 Concordia University System (CUS) schools climbs every year.
At least it has in each of the past 22 years the CUS has been in operation.
This fall’s combined CUS enrollment in both graduate and undergraduate programs grew by 8.5 percent — from 33,399 in fall 2013 to 36,250 this year, an increase of 2,851 students.
Perhaps not surprisingly, that growth is largely due to CUS graduate programs, which drew a total of 19,405 students this fall (an increase of 2,586, or 15 percent).
But total undergraduate enrollment also grew — from 16,580 in 2013 to 16,845 this year (up 265, or 1.5 percent).
CUS ‘delivers more’
The CUS “has been blessed with continued growth in enrollment since the colleges and universities were formally organized as a system in 1992,” acknowledges the Rev. Dr. Paul A. Philp, its director of Institutional Research and Integrity.
Philp credits “excellent programs taught by highly qualified faculty within the context of a Christ-centered community [that] offer the students of the Concordia University System an education that is difficult to find outside of the system. Learning directly from faculty who are not only experts in their field but who genuinely care for the student as a brother or sister in Christ is a tremendous blessing that many have sought and continue to seek for their higher education.”
That view is shared by CUS President Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe, who believes the CUS “stands out” among higher-education institutions because it “delivers more.”
“Like other accredited institutions, these universities provide the programs and courses that will advance one’s career opportunities in the economic realm,” Wenthe told Reporter. “The visionary administrations, credentialed faculties and up-to-date facilities will deliver that component, but there is something extra about a Concordia education.
“Simply put, the Concordia University System provides for the heart and soul of the student as well as the mind and body. If the heart and soul of a student are healthy and formed for a future life in service to Christ and the neighbor, the rest of the educational project will sparkle with satisfaction and enjoyment. If the heart and soul of a student are confused or misguided, no amount of education will result in a flourishing and God-pleasing life.”
Wenthe said a “Lutheran Identity Standards for CUS Institutions” document — still a work-in-progress — will help safeguard those Lutheran ideals among all CUS schools in the years ahead. Endorsed in mid-October by CUS school presidents, the document “embeds campus life in a confession of Christ as the One who orders all learning rightly,” explains Wenthe.
Regarding the continued growth of CUS enrollment, Philp also points to the fact that CUS schools have expanded their course offerings over the years, and today “provide opportunities for students to prepare for a myriad of careers and vocations of service to both church and world, including pharmacy and nursing, business and education, the natural sciences, the humanities, church-professional training and beyond. Graduate and adult education have also become a key component of the offerings of the CUS.”
CUS student profile
Who are this year’s students?
A large portion — some 11,488 — describe themselves as “non-Lutheran Protestants,” and another large group (of 10,596 students) is described as “unknown/undeclared.”
Only 4,041 are LCMS Lutherans, and another 2,317 are “other Lutherans.” Catholics total 5,241, and other faiths account for another 1,282 students.
Those in the “unchurched” category total 1,285.
Fewer church-work students
Just as total CUS enrollment keeps climbing, the number of students enrolled in church-work programs keeps falling — from 1,531 last year to 1,392 this year, a drop of 139 students, or 9 percent.
Except for an increase of 54 students in fall 2010, that total has been dropping for at least the past 13 years, according to CUS staff.
But in spite of the falling total, there were some increases among the number of students in pre-seminary (up 34, to 190), lay ministry (up 5, to 37), deaconess (up 4, to 25) and director of Christian outreach (up 1, to 10).
Drops were reported in enrollments for those seeking a Lutheran teacher diploma (down 144, to 867), director of Christian education (down 28, to 223), director of family life ministry (down 9, to 19) and director of parish music (down 2, to 21).
Calling recruitment of church workers “an ongoing challenge,” Wenthe cites “fewer young people in the church; a culture that fails to see the beauty of serving as a pastor, teacher, DCE or deaconess; and the significant cost of training for a career with a more modest salary,” but adds that CUS schools are “providing incentives and support for those who are called to serve Christ and His church.”
Wenthe says CUS campuses — in addition to providing special financial assistance to church-work students — are “working to make the church-worker programs more visible and attractive” to students. “For example, the beauty of spiritual care and the blessing of holding up Christ as one’s full-time calling delivers, under God’s grace, great purpose and satisfaction,” he said.
“An exciting aspect of our present educational context is that as secular darkness descends on many institutions of higher learning, even some with a churchly history, the Concordia University System — its presidents, professors and students — stand out all the more with illuminating, life-changing, educational formation, for they invite everyone to behold Jesus Christ, the light of the world.”
Portland’s online grad school
That light is shining brightly at Concordia University, Portland — the fastest-growing college in Oregon and also the top CUS school in terms of enrollment growth. Its current student body of 7,435 includes 2,007 more students than last fall — an increase of 37 percent.
Dr. Charles Schlimpert, who is now in his 32nd year as CU-Portland president, attributes the majority of that growth to the school’s online Master’s of Education (M.Ed.) and Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) degree programs.
“We’re staying focused on our mission to prepare students who will transform the world,” Schlimpert told Reporter. “We’re blessed to have a thriving physical campus but also the ability to expand our reach to an increasing number of graduate students worldwide through our online master’s and doctorate degrees.”
Many of those who earn graduate degrees online “are advancing their careers as teachers and business leaders,” according to Schlimpert. One asset of CU-Portland’s online programs, he adds, is that students are enrolled “with a small cohort of peers who journey through their graduate degree together, receiving the same one-on-one attention from faculty as they would on a physical campus.”
He notes that the retention rate of the university’s online programs averages 81 percent — “one of the highest in the nation.”
CU-Portland also is becoming known for its innovative, 8-plus-year collaboration with a neighboring elementary school and the Portland Public School District. More than 200 Concordia students and faculty volunteer their time at Faubion School each semester, and now the two plan to “create a new model for education” by building a joint facility for Concordia’s College of Education and Faubion School.
Slated to open in fall 2017, the new facility is part of CU-Portland’s “3 to PhD” initiative “to create safer, healthier and more educated communities.” And, adds Schlimpert, “we hope this effort spreads nationwide, with more universities adopting their neighborhood schools.”
To watch a video about Concordia’s partnership with Faubion School, click here.
This fall’s enrollments — including both graduate and undergraduate students — at individual CUS schools are as follows:
- Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich. — 829 (an increase of 89 students, or 12 percent, over fall 2013).
- Concordia University Texas, Austin — 2,504 (down 61, or 2 percent).
- Concordia College—New York, Bronxville — 1,037 (up 84, or 8.8 percent).
- Concordia University, Irvine, Calif. — 4,311 (up 265, or 6.5 percent).
- Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon — 8,161 (up 218, or 3 percent).
- Concordia University, Portland, Ore. — 7,435 (up 2,007, or 37 percent).
- Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill. — 5,038 (down 248, or 5 percent).
- Concordia College Alabama, Selma — 546 (down 54, or 9 percent).
- Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn. — 4,057 (up 425, or 12 percent).
- Concordia University, Nebraska, Seward — 2,332 (up 126, or 6 percent).
For more information about LCMS colleges and universities — and professional church-work careers — visit the website of the Concordia University System at lcms.org/cus.
Total enrollment in all programs at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., combined is up slightly this fall — from 934 last year to 941 this year, an increase of 7 students, or less than 1 percent.
“We rejoice that our Lord continues to send men for preparation in the harvest fields,” said the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the Synod’s Office of National Mission and interim chief mission officer for the LCMS. “The university pre-seminary programs and both seminaries work very hard to identify and form men for Word and Sacrament ministry. We are thankful to see an increase in enrollment.”
Although the number of students in programs leading to ordination is down by 45 (to 638), total enrollment in graduate programs is up by 27 (to 253).
“It’s exciting to see more and more students seek additional graduate theological education,” Day said. “A highly trained clergy has been a hallmark of the LCMS and assures that we have men who can engage the church both domestically and internationally.”
Another plus is the increase of 25 students in the “other programs” category, which includes non-master’s deaconess students, exchange students and “Spanish-formation” students at Fort Wayne.
Day adds that “identifying and nurturing future pastors is the work of the entire church. Recruitment is not something left for colleges and seminaries. Early encouragement needs to take place at the dinner table by parents, in the Sunday school classroom by teachers, in catechism class by the pastor, at youth activities by volunteer leaders.
“Together the church can encourage and support the future generation of pastors that will serve our children and their children’s children,” he said. “We are all in this together.”
Enrollment figures for the seminaries individually are as follows:
- Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, reported a total enrollment in fall-term courses of 619 students (14 fewer than last year), with 447 enrolled in programs leading to ordination, or 38 fewer students. Enrollment for the Specific Ministry Pastor program fell by 30, accounting for the bulk of the decline.
Its ordination-track student body includes 267 M.Div. students — the same number as last year, 14 residential alternate-route students and 166 nonresidential students.
Other advanced-degree programs have 186 students enrolled, including 10 M.A. deaconess students (6 more deaconess students are non-M.A.), 71 Ph.D. students, 52 D.Min. students and 36 S.T.M. students.
- Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., reported a total enrollment of 322 (21 more than last year), with 191 enrolled in programs leading to ordination (down 8).
Its ordination-track student body includes 162 M.Div. students, 8 residential alternate-route students and 21 nonresidential students.
Other advanced-degree programs have 97 students enrolled, including 30 M.A. deaconess students, 25 Ph.D. students and 31 D.Min. students.
For more information about the Synod’s seminaries, visit the LCMS Pastoral Education website at lcms.org/pastoraleducation.
Posted Nov. 3, 2014