Christian universities face ‘extremely difficult’ recruiting outlook

Number of freshmen who identify with Churches of Christ hits new low, annual survey finds.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

OKLAHOMA CITY — Brynn Walker always thought she’d attend a large state university.

But this fall, the 18-year-old from Fort Smith, Ark., packed up and trekked west on Interstate 40 to enroll at 2,300-student Oklahoma Christian University.

“The introvert in me loved the smaller campus. The extrovert in me loved how close it was to a big city,” Walker said of the far north Oklahoma City campus, less than 15 miles from the downtown arena of the NBA’s Thunder.

Across the U.S., the number of high school graduates who identify with Churches of Christ and choose to attend one of 14 universities associated with the fellowship has hit a new low.

Walker was one of 2,004 freshmen who fit that profile in fall 2018 — down 8 percent from 2,177 in fall 2017, according to an annual survey by Trace S. Hebert, a higher education researcher at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

One of the major factors in Walker’s unexpected decision: a “college visit” road trip organized by Rick Odell, youth and family minister for the West-Ark Church of Christin her hometown, near the Oklahoma state line.

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This story appears in the January 2019 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Author: Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning journalist who has reported from all 50 states and 13 countries in his 28-year professional career.