This article is published in the 2015 I’m First Guide to College


Faith-Based Colleges Aim to Serve the Whole Person

By William E. Hamm

Everyone knows that college is about more than earning a degree and choosing a career. Most students also use their college years to explore issues of spirituality, and faith-based institutions are good places to undertake this journey.

Faith-based colleges and universities are those related to a faith tradition. In the U.S., this usually means their heritage is Roman Catholic, Jewish or Protestant. In only rare cases are there religious requirements to gain admission and most of these institutions have diverse student bodies. While some of these colleges are for persons of a particular faith or denominational background, most aim to support all students in their spiritual quests.

Our nation’s first colleges were founded by church groups, and most have a long tradition of providing access to underrepresented groups and those with limited financial resources. Since faith-based institutions are private, it may surprise you that these institutions use financial aid to enroll some students who have little or no family financial support.

Choosing a faith-based institution is about more than just spiritual growth. These institutions offer academic and student life programs with a point of view. Their programs of general education—the part of your academic program which is common for all students—represents their faculties’ views of the world. And student life programs abound with service learning opportunities. There’s nothing generic about faith-based colleges, so if you consider them you’ll want to ask about their general education or core program as well as student life. Your first year at a faith-based college will be a unique experience!

Because these institutions are small by comparison, students in faith-based colleges have the advantage of getting to know their professors. You’ll find rich opportunities for one-on-one learning.

The faculty members who choose to teach in a faith-based college are intentional about that decision, and they bring a deep passion for teaching in this environment as well as a desire to focus on undergraduates and teaching. They are going to get to know you and they will lend a helping hand when necessary. When one thinks about it, that’s what one would expect of people working in a faith-based institution.

The research is clear, too. Alumni of faith-based institutions give their education higher marks, and the experience shows in lives of service to their communities and world.

BIO William E. Hamm is President of the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America (LECNA)