Heads of Baptist, Catholic and Jewish universities agree religious higher education is essential for the country’s health.
The more than 1,200 faith-based universities in America increasingly are confronted with regulatory challenges which some believe restrict their deeply held religious mission.
But a larger challenge may be persuading society to invest in higher education that is less about producing students to compete in a global economy and more about instilling the “value of values.”
That was the conclusion of three university presidents from diverse religious traditions who discussed the “calling” of faith-based higher education Feb. 4 at the National Press Club in Washington.
The event was sponsored by Baylor University, the nation’s largest Baptist-affiliated school, on the eve of the National Day of Prayer breakfast. Joining Ken Starr, president of the school in Waco, Texas, were John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, and Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University in New York.
“We would all agree that education is more than a transmission of information, attending classes, doing lab work — but what is it?” asked Starr.
The three acknowledged difficulties in responding to recent regulations such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate and government involvement in setting faculty employment guidelines.
They also found troubling a proposed Department of Education “rating system” for universities and colleges. The proposal is “triggering opposition from all institutions that this is a reductionist approach” which “won’t take into account the mission that universities are trying to accomplish,” said Starr.
Tracking those government initiatives comes naturally to the three presidents, each of whom has a law degree. Both Garvey and Starr are former law school deans.
But Joel, whose institution is the oldest under Jewish auspices in America, saw a larger issue.
“To me the major challenge is for parents and students to know that [faith-based higher education] is worthy of investing in,” he said. “The challenge is the degree that society has accepted the notion that education is credentialing for careers, and people look for where they can get the best deal to get the requisite credential.”
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SOURCE: Baptist News Global