The homeschooling movement is growing in America, and it’s no surprise. The home is a natural, rich soil for student learning. Even with public and private school students, parents remain a powerful force in the education of their children.
For most of history, children received vocational or advanced training in small, community settings such as apprenticeships or with home tutors. While regular teachers possess college and university degrees in specialized fields, evidence confirms that homeschool curricula, with the freedom of the homeschool environment along with the security and care of parent-teachers, consistently outperform classrooms taught by degreed professionals.
In short, the passion and dedication of parents seems to significantly outscore specialization. And of course, the disarray of public schools and the added expense of private schools only add to homeschooling’s appeal.
But what about after high school? The working world still presses job candidates for college degrees. College remains crucial for many Americans. But for homeschoolers, some colleges fit far better than others. Below is TheBestSchools.org’s ranking of the 25 top homeschool-friendly colleges.
Like anyone else in the college-hunt, homeschoolers want academic excellence and rigor at a fair price—but in a healthy setting without the decadence prevalent in so much of American higher education. In their search for the right college, homeschoolers have unique needs.
It is not enough to find a college that actively recruits homeschoolers; those schools might still fail to address the needs and interests of their homeschool applicants. All of the following schools have a history of accepting homeschool applicants. But we’ve gone farther in identifying three key features that commend these schools as “homeschool-friendly”:
American colleges are notorious for undermining the Christian faith of their students. Good Christian schools can reverse this trend. They allow open debate of contrary views without belittling nay-sayers or coercing conformity, and without compromising Christian integrity.
Schools with a strong emphasis on liberal arts, classics, and the Great Books tend to be best at advancing true academic freedom. Christian education sees students as image-bearers of God, holistic individuals having both a soul and a body and possessing built-in purposes such as love, discovery, creativity, wisdom, and responsibility.
Thus, a solid Christian education should be strong in the humanities, raising students within some of the great traditions, experiences, and conversations across human history. It is these grand meta-narratives that lend counsel and context for students as they become active participants and contributors to the human project. Overly pragmatic or secular-leaning schools can treat students merely as sophisticated animals, workers, robots, or stimulus-response mechanisms. Christian education should attempt to spare students from such debasement.
Often homeschoolers come from settings with strong traditional family values and from politically right-leaning homes.
American colleges, however, lean overwhelmingly towards social liberalism and the political left. It can be difficult to find an academically respectable college that is not hostile to conservatives.
While it is not necessary to find a “conservative” school per se, the school must be hospitable to conservative values to make this list.
Schools get high marks here if they have outstanding reputations for their political science departments, law schools, or institutes promoting distinctly conservative values and policy.
SCIENCE AND FAITH INTEGRATION
Upon going to college, homeschoolers are often shocked to find that their science classes take positions openly hostile to their Christian faith.
Psychology and neuroscience classes dismiss the idea that humans have a spirit or soul or some aspect that is not reducible to material causes. Biology classes tout Darwinian evolution and reject out of hand alternatives such as intelligent design, which homeschoolers are likely to have studied before setting off for college. Extreme forms of environmentalism are taught in such a way as to demean and insult belief in God. Homeschoolers, therefore, stand to benefit from having a faith-friendly science department that is intent on integrating faith and science into a coherent worldview.
In the following ranking, colleges that come out roughly equal with respect to these three main criteria get sifted according to other criteria which become the difference-makers, including academic prestige, teacher-to-student ratios, size, and cost.
Given all these criteria, the following schools tested well as strong options for college-bound homeschool graduates.
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1. International Conservative Think Tank: Grove City College (Grove City, PA)
Grove City College is most everything homeschool graduates could ask for: Politically Conservative, Genuinely Christian, and Scientifically credible. GCC is award-winning too, earning high honors from Readers Digest, International Studies Institute, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and many others.
Highly regarded for its humanities degrees in law, politics, and culture, GCC has also earned international regard for teaching Austrian economics and free-market capitalism. GCC faculty work within a number of national and international conservative think tanks. This school not only teaches conservative principles, it shapes international conservative policy.
Consistent with their ideals, GCC, along with Hillsdale, does not accept government funds such as federal student loans. For those who don’t know, this enables great independence while keeping costs down to a “market competitive” rate.
GCC consistently receives “best value” awards giving an excellent education for half the cost of competing schools. As of June 2012, its per-year cost is about $22,000 total (not just tuition!). The school is medium in size at 2,530 students (in 2011), so homeschoolers should not feel swamped like at state schools numbering 10,000 or more students.
GCC also has a reputation for rigorous computer science and electrical engineering departments, thus bolstering its humanities clout with scientific status.
2. Premier Philosophy and Apologetics: Biola University (La Mirada, CA)
Anchoring conservative Christian academia on the West Coast, Los Angeles–based Biola is an established top-tier school and a standout for Christian worldview and apologetics training.
It has several noted faculty who travel the world and teach apologetics, including William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Craig Hazen, and Doug Geivett. Collegiates in the Torrey Honors Institute focus on a Great Books Curriculum, while graduate students choose among several degree options, including a Master of Arts in philosophy, or in apologetics, or in the combined field of religion and science.
Across their science fields, Biola emphasizes intelligent design and attempts to equip science majors to integrate their faith into their field, both in subsequent graduate work and in their careers. Biola also offers an array of extra-curricular apologetics and missions activities, including the largest annual missions conference in the world.
Biola’s emphasis on apologetics means that it does not settle for merely exposing students to diverse ideas (as is typical with many liberal arts schools), but it goes further in empowering them to interact responsibly and persuasively within diverse settings with full integrity to the faith.
Biola is one of the more expensive on this list at $42,271, and its enrollment of 5,942 students might be too large for some. Also, Los Angeles, with its chaos, can be a bit intimidating. But for many students it’s just the right fit.
3. The Catholic Approach to Great Books: University of Dallas (Irving, TX)
The University of Dallas is the best of the conservative Roman Catholic schools.
Located next to Dallas, UD has a heritage of merging ecumenical and scholastic strengths. UD uses a Great Books curriculum within a classical liberal arts model that celebrates the same benefits of Western Civilization that it fosters. Its Great Books curriculum does not stop with classic texts, but includes modern entries, as well. Moreover, its treatment of the natural and social sciences is cutting-edge.
Most undergraduate students are confessing Catholics (82%). But the school appeals outside of Catholic circles, too, with its strong Christian emphasis but no Catholic confessional requirements for students.
UD has one of the strongest study-abroad programs in the nation, with 80% of students studying in partner universities overseas, primarily in Rome, Italy. As for specific degrees, UD is noted for its art department and its doctoral concentration in politics.
UD enrolls 1356 undergraduate students and about the same in their graduate program. Only 36% of graduate students there confess Catholicism. UD boasts numerous awards for their graduate school, with particular strengths in their politics and arts departments. UD consistently ranks near or above the top 100 list of national universities in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Princeton Review.
Evangelical Protestants may have a hard time finding their Protestant distinctives nurtured on campus, but they are still in the Bible Belt, with plenty of good churches and a supportive (off-campus) culture. And they may find more familial support within a distinctively Catholic school than in some theologically liberal “Christian” schools, like Baylor or Furman (see below). Nevertheless, the lack of on-campus Protestant activities is a slight knock against this otherwise superb homeschooler university—as is the cost, about $39,000 a year.
4. A Citadel of Conservatism: Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, MI)
Hillsdale College has made a name as the premier politically conservative school in the country while maintaining elite academic ideals. Forbes listed it as the highest-ranked Christian college in its list of best Colleges (#60 overall; 2011).
Hillsdale is a great school for students interested in politics, economics, or journalism.
When top schools cost $50,000 or more, parents might like it that Hillsdale costs $21,300 per year, roughly half the cost of every other non-military college ranked in the top 100. While this value quotient is commendable, Hillsdale is known more for its place as “a citadel of American conservatism.” Hillsdale rejects all federal funding and requires all students to take a class on the constitution.
Hillsdale sports a 10:1 professor-to-student ratio. Its degrees emphasize teaching and the humanities. Unfortunately, Hillsdale is also known to be intolerant towards creationism and intelligent design views among its faculty, thus preventing this otherwise commendable school from achieving the highest rank. Moreover, Hillsdale is not especially strong as a “Christian” school. Other schools like Biola and Liberty promise a more distinctly Christian education.
5. A Big Baptist School with Options: Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
The largest school, by far, on our list is also one of the youngest: Liberty University.
Training champions for Christ since 1971, and pioneering distance education since 1985, Liberty University now enrolls more than 90,000 students from around the world in its thriving online program. With more than 160 fully accredited programs of study, Liberty University Online offers degrees from the certificate to the postgraduate level.
Liberty has recently set the trend for religious schools in its forward-looking online and distance education, second only in renown to University of Phoenix. With its considerable size and variety of options, Liberty offers degrees in all five of the “most marketable degrees” according to MSN News: (1) nursing, (2) information/computer technology, (3) engineering, (4) economics, and (5) education.
Liberty is a great school to attend for “undecided” prospective students, since Liberty has far more degree tracks to offer than most. Liberty is a school with options, without sacrificing its respectable 19:1 student-professor ratio and cost of $27,018 per year.
Liberty gained the reputation under its founder and former president Jerry Falwell of being a major player within the politically powerful “Moral Majority.” For decades, conservatives, Southern Baptists, and Christian educators have called upon Liberty University for direction. Liberty will strike some prospects as too partisan since it is markedly Southern Baptist and unabashedlyRepublican. But the school’s size and range of faculty enables some diversity of views along with other hard-to-find options like degrees in law, cinema, and aeronautics.
Also of note: Conservative Christian schools tend to be notoriously weak in the sciences, but Liberty offers an array of degrees to suit the science-minded student. Though fundamentalist in many respects, Liberty is culturally conscious, having an impressive philosophy and apologetics programs aimed at engaging the big ideas directing society.
If the size of this school is overwhelming, students can utilize the distance program, stay at home, and still earn an accredited Liberty degree. For this reason, Liberty is one of the most flexible and accessible options for homeschoolers.
6. Character-Building without Tuition: College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, MO)
Perhaps the most non-traditional school on the list is College of the Ozarks, located outside of Branson, Missouri. Also called “Hard Work U,” this school is easy on the wallet, replacing all tuition costs with a student work program of about 15 hours per week.
The school has a liberal arts–based curriculum supplemented by a character-education curriculum, setting this school apart in regards to its holistic approach to student development. Though this school is technically “free,” it is not considered in cost lists here, since the students still have to “pay,” just with time and energy rather than money.
Though C of O is non-traditional, do not be fooled; this is a serious academic institution, being consistently ranked since 1989 in U.S. News and World Report, and recognized as a “best buy” in Money Magazine and as a top Character-Building College in the Templeton Honor Roll.
C of O has also achieved renown as a conservative college, being named among the top conservative colleges by the Young Americans Foundation and having among its visiting speakers George W. Bush, Colin Powell, and Sarah Palin.
C of O is known for its degrees in media, business, education, nursing, and agriculture. Likely, C of O will never reach the top tier of academic circles since its students always have non-academic demands upon their time. Still, C of O, arguably, produces better-quality students who are more grounded, responsible, and well-rounded than ivory-tower Ivy Leaguers could ever be.
7. A School with Vision and Intellectual Horsepower: Houston Baptist University (Houston, TX)
Previously unknown beyond Texas, Houston Baptist University has vaulted onto the map with its “10 Pillars” initiative, which includes such homeschool-friendly goals as Build on the Classics, Bring Athens and Jerusalem Together [integrate philosophy and Christianity], Increase Cultural Impact, Expand on the Creative Arts, Create a Strong Global Focus, and more.
To fill out this goal, HBU has had a major hiring surge, taking on acclaimed Christian scholars John Mark Reynolds, Michael Licona, Nancy Pearcey, Bruce Gordon, Richard Martinez, Louis Markos, Mary Joe Sharp, and Holly Ordway. Also added is the department of apologetics, to work in tandem with the philosophy department.
The ambitious 10 Pillars program is the brainchild of its president Robert Sloan. Formerly the president of Baylor University, Sloan attempted a similar 10 Pillars program years earlier at Baylor, only to find that when he began shaking things up, the establishment was too far removed from its Baptist roots, too entrenched in evolutionary science, and too intolerant of the various applications of apologetics to endure the Christian vision.
However, HBU looks much more promising. While Baylor has had difficulty balancing Christian integrity with academic respectability, HBU looks to do both without compromising either. For example, HBU’s Honors College is designed on a Classics model similar to the Torrey Institute at Biola (no surprise there, since John Mark Reynolds formerly headed the Torrey program—HBU stole him from Biola). And the school’s plethora of ministry clubs are a wishbook of options for incoming Christian students.
However, time will tell whether HBU lives up to the ambitious goals of its president. In the meantime, HBU costs (overall) a modest $38,000 a year and enrolls 2,200—mid-sized compared to other entries on this list.
8. Media and Law Majors Take Note: Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA)
Regent University was founded by media mogul Pat Robertson in 1978, and has blossomed into a premier conservative media college.
Originally named CBN University for its roots in the Christian Broadcasting Network, this school has grown far beyond its fundamentalist origins, earning renown through the dozens of actors and politicians who call Regent their Alma Mater.
Today Regent costs a mere $28,000 a year and boasts 1,960 undergrads, 2,130 grad students (including 846 doctoral students), and 346 non-degree students. But these numbers do not reflect Regent’s extensive distance learning and extensional education programs.
Through its prime location and conservative foundations, Regent fosters cultural outreach to Washington, DC. Regent takes faith and politics seriously. Empowering that influence are Regent’s booming law and business programs.
Add on their advanced degrees in organizational leadership and top those off with an array of art and media programs, such as journalism, animation, fine art, cinema, screenwriting, production, directing, acting, communication, and theater, and you’ll find that Regent is a rare combination able to inspire the mind with conservative ideals, train the voice to declare them well, and guide the hand to record them for posterity.
9. A Law School by and for Homeschoolers: Patrick Henry College (Purcellville, VA)
No school on this list is more intentionally geared towards homeschool students than Patrick Henry College. Founded by constitutional attorney and homeschooling pioneer Dr. Michael Farris, PHC was established to build upon the best elements that homeschooling has to offer.
PHC is a classical liberal arts college aimed at “the transformation of American society by training Christian students to serve God and mankind with a passion for righteousness, justice, and mercy, through careers of public service and cultural influence.”
PHC has already earned a reputation as a pre-law boutique through its award-winning students who participate in forensics, debate, and moot court competitions. Remarkably, 92% of graduates applying for graduate work have been accepted into their preferred school.
Patrick Henry’s resputation may derive from the litany of notables among its 25-member faculty, including John Warwick Montgomery, Gene Edward Veith, and David Aikman. The school has strong ties to the former G.W. Bush administration, and so is unmistakably conservative. In conservative circles, Patrick Henry has earned a spot at the national table, having become a major think tank for Christian conservatism in America.
PHC is not a “science” school, and its departments and faculty bear this out. However, PHC strongly supports Christian integration within the sciences. Creationism, in particular, is encouraged, as witnessed by the “Origins: 2012” conference to be held there this July.
PHC has TRACS accreditation but not ATS or SACS. PHC is not the cheapest school to attend, coming in rather high among its competitors at about $40,000 total cost per year. However, for students interested in pre-law, government, or the liberal arts, PHC is still much less expensive than the $50,000 average among top-tier schools.
PHC is the second-smallest (450 students) and the youngest (founded in 1998) school on this list, and combined with its austere degree options—offering only two tracks: government and liberal arts—PHC will strike many prospects as small, safe, simple, and superior.
10. Faith-Integrated Sciences: LeTourneau University (Longview, TX)
Founded in 1946 as LeTourneau Technical Institute, to serve returning World War II veterans with vocational training, this upstart sprouted into LeTourneau University, a 3,000-student, $34,000-a-year, coeducational private Christian college specializing in vocational sciences.
LeTourneau is practical. The school also prioritizes homeschoolers, even hosting the upcoming homeschool symposium on its main campus in Longview. LeTourneau is unique on this list for having no significant humanities department, but having instead a reputation for offering vocation-ready science degrees taught from a distinctly Christian worldview.
LeTourneau’s vision statement bears this out: “Claiming every workplace in every nation as their mission field.” As a Christian school, this approach means that the sciences are taught with some regard for the Bible, creation, and Christian stewardship, while seeking to locate one’s scientific contributions within the greater picture of God’s revelation in nature.
LeTourneau has required chapels, and a broadly Christian conduct policy. The school is a liberal arts school, but has strong concentrations (and renown) for its technical programs, namely, engineering, aeronautics, and computer science. On the horizon are degrees in health education and forensic chemistry. Also offered are non-technical degrees in business and education.
LeTourneau has won awards for “Best Value” and for Christian Universities. Approximately 1 in 6 students are homeschoolers.
11. Home of the American Studies Institute: Harding University (Searcy, AR)
At first glance, Harding may look like just another big, private, Christian college. For some students that would suffice.
In that regard Harding is impressive enough, with a constantly growing student body now topping 7,000 (graduate and undergraduate), an assortment of undergraduate degrees in business, counseling, speech pathology, ministry, education, and more, and doctoral degrees in education, pharmacy, and physical therapy.
Combine these with an extension school of theology in Memphis, TN, and study-abroad programs using international extension campuses in Brisbane, Australia, Viña del Mar, Chile, Porto Rafti, Greece, Florence, Italy, London, U.K., and Kalomo, Zambia—and all of that for about $21,000 a year—well, Harding is impressive enough.
However, what really puts Harding on this list is its American Studies Institute. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Harding joined the anti-Communist movement at the start of the Cold War with some short media productions. By 1953, the ASI was formed, putting Harding formally on the map as a declared advocate of American free enterprise.
Since its founding, the ASI has sponsored programs, publications, and presentations designed to foster patriotism and conservative values. The list of invited speakers to the ASI reads like a Who’s Who of international and conservative politics.
Harding is not only conservative, it is very Christian, fostering Christian tradition through daily morning chapels required for all students. Harding has no sororities or fraternities. The code of conduct, comparable to many entries on this list, is more austere than most colleges, with rules against smoking, a prohibition on viewing or displaying pornography, and restrictions on male-female visitation to family and approved guests.
12. Business and Politics in the Heart of New York City: The King’s College (New York, NY)
Currently located in the Empire State Building in Manhattan, this Christian liberal arts school should not be confused with other similarly named schools.
TKC was relaunched in 1999 and now boasts an impressive faculty, including Peter Kreeft and new president Dinesh D’Souza. Beginning in the fall of 2012, students will be in expanded facilities at the intersection of Broadway and Stock Exchange Plaza—in the heart of the Financial District.
The college’s conservative Christian focus is witnessed by the fact that it is a subsidiary of the Campus Crusade for Christ. Its 450 students align under three degree programs: Business Management; Politics, Philosophy, and Economics; and Media, Culture, and the Arts.
Retaining its liberal arts foundation, TKC requires a sizable core curriculum of 20 classes (60 hrs), including logic, persuasive speaking, Western civilization, and Judeo-Christian thought. The school’s reputation revolves around leadership training and social influence within a political and theological conservatism.
Business majors, political science majors, and media majors should look seriously at this school. Having no science program, TKC cannot stand in the very top rank for homeschool options. Yet its small size, amazing location, affordable cost (about $29,000), liberal arts curriculum, and impressive faculty earn it a place in the top 15.
Students are not required to sign any confessional statement, or to attend chapel, church, or Christian extra-curricular activities of any kind. Although faculty are required to sign doctrinal statements, this liberality for students does not bode well historically for the future integrity of this Christian school.
The King’s College is accredited by the Middle States Commission for Higher Education.
13. A Flagship Christian University in the South: Union University (Jackson, TN)
Union University is a private Christian school that has been a top-tier school for 15 years running according to U.S. News & World Report.
Union is almost 200 years old, yet in that time it has stayed true to its Christian heritage, while winning high marks for academics from Peterson’s Competitive Colleges, the Templeton Guide to Colleges that Encourage Character Development, and the Student Guide to America’s 100 Best College Buys.
Union follows a modern liberal arts curriculum, as opposed to a Classical or Great Books model. A detriment to the school is its Greek system of sororities and fraternities; for all the good that can come from these kinds of groups, their negative reputation is too often earned.
A true asset to the school is its president, Dr. David S. Dockery. He is the co-editor of The Future of Christian Higher Education (Broadman & Holmam, 1999), which made the rounds through Christian colleges in the Southeast several years back, challenging private Christian universities to forge and earn academic clout by being Christian in their scholarship. Among the many other books Dr. Dockery has published, Renewing Minds (B&H Academic, 2008) is particularly notable for its call to reclaim the Christian intellectual tradition and teach students how to approach every sphere of life from a Christian perspective.
Through Dr. Dockery’s leadership, Union has since been a trendsetter for many private schools in the south.
At over 4,000 students, Union is a larger school than most on the list. Its cost is $34,000 for on-campus fees, tuition, and room and board, but about 90% of students receive some form of financial aid, which makes Union less expensive than many schools of similar mission and size.
Because of its size and history, Union is a good choice for science majors who still crave a conservative Christian setting. Union offers a well-rounded, traditional university setting with Christian values and name recognition.
14. If You Want a Classical Christian Education: New Saint Andrews College (Moscow, ID)
Founded in 1994 by theologian Douglas Wilson, New Saint Andrews College is a young member of an elite group of schools dedicated to classical Christian education. NSA has come a long way in a short time, by offering a bargain-priced Classical and Great Books education within the Reformed theological tradition.
NSA offers a unique, single integrative program for associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, eschewing the typical divisions into distinct “majors” and “minors.” The result is a truly liberal arts education on the Classical Greek model. It does diversify at the graduate level, offering Master’s degrees in Theology and Letters and Classical Christian Studies. Students intent on graduate school, or who prefer holistic rather than vocational training, can suit their tastes at NSA.
NSA has only TRACS accreditation, thus undercutting some of the academic prestige otherwise commanded by their stark Classical curriculum. The school is tiny, with only 155 students, and a single building as its campus. The tuition is also small, at $8,500, with no on-campus housing.
Despite its underwhelming campus, youth, and narrow range, the school was named among the top 50 conservative schools by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) and was on the Super Scholar top-10 list of “Best Colleges for Homeschoolers.”
15. Non-Denominational Ministry Prep: Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL)
Originally founded in the late 19th century by revivalist Dwight L. Moody as a Bible study and evangelism society, Moody Bible Institute has blossomed into one of the most widely recognized Christian schools in the world.
Based in Chicago, Moody now has over 4,000 students, degree programs in more than two dozen fields of study, and three online degrees.
Moody has been, and continues to be, focused on vocational ministry. In that sense, the school is not a liberal arts college, nor does it fall inside of the Classical humanities. However, homeschoolers from an evangelical Protestant background, or who intend to enter full-time ministry, can find an excellent ministerial and biblical preparation at Moody.
Students can also study apologetics and philosophy within the theology department to supplement or support the biblically and missions-intensive course load. There is no science department to speak of, but what is taught about faith and science is compatible with creationism and intelligent design.
As for costs, students can expect to pay about $20,000 per year.
16. Big School, Great Books, Lots of Options: Franciscan University of Steubenville (Steubenville, OH)
Under new leadership beginning in 1974, the Franciscan University of Steubenville has progressed from a secularized college to a Catholic university. Today the school stands as a paragon of Catholic liberal arts education.
Unlike Ave Maria and Christendom Colleges, Franciscan offers dozens of degree options, made possible by its considerable size—at almost 3,000 students, exceeding even the University of Dallas—but costing about $29,000 a year.
Franciscan presents graduate students with seven degree options. Undergraduates have more than 40 majors and 33 minors to choose from. Of these, there are seven pre-professional degrees: medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, veterinary medicine, and law.
Consistent with its Catholic roots, the school offers several divinity tracks for students considering the priesthood. Religious life at Franciscan is strong, and reflects Catholic conservatism. For example, the college hosts a chapter of Democrats for Life, as well as Student Republicans, and Students for Life.
The campus’s Portiuncula Chapel is a Vatican-approved pilgrimage landmark, hosting perpetual adoration of the blessed sacrament, as well as having, just outside, a tomb of the unborn.
Franciscan is unmistakably pro-life. Moreover, FUS has come to fame in homeschooling circles for its Great Books program. The school substitutes all but two chapters of Greek life with Faith Households, seeking to foster community without the infamous reputation of fraternities and sororities.
Franciscan holds awards for its conservatism (Young America’s Foundation), for its Catholic standing (Cardinal Newman Society), and for being a homeschool-friendly campus (Super Scholar).
17. A School of Faith and Patriotism: King College (Bristol, TN)
King College is a modestly priced Presbyterian school that is nicely sized, at 1,833 students.
Their conservative and Christian values crop up within their core class, “Christian Faith and Social Responsibility,” and in a guided American heritage trip through Washington, DC.
Though not an apologetics school, King College is home to the Buechner Institute—named for the distinguished American novelist, Frederick Buechner—which is dedicated to exploring the interaction of faith and culture.
King College—not to be confused with similarly named schools in Pennsylvania or New York–is known for its graduate programs in nursing and education. King graduates have gone on to further study at such prestigious schools as Oxford, Princeton, Yale, Vanderbilt, Cambridge, and UC Berkeley. King also sports an impressive 85% in-field employment for graduates. That is, 85% of graduates work in their major field within six months after graduation.
King does not have an outstanding reputation for the sciences or for apologetics, but is consistently recognized for its academic excellence as a liberal arts institution in national rankings such as those of Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and the Princeton Review.
The cost is about $37,000, well below the standard, but still pricey for this list, especially compared to Hillsdale and Grove City.
18. Catholic Natural Law School: Ave Maria University (Ave Maria, FL)
Well within Christian education, but outside of evangelicalism, lies the young, little, Catholic liberal arts college, Ave Maria University.
Located in the planned city of the same name near Naples, Florida, Ave Maria was founded in 1998 as a Catholic beachhead for social and political conservatism. Today, it has just under 700 undegraduates, about 150 graduate students, and almost 350 post-graduate students.
Ave Maria was intended, at its founding, to be devoted to the Roman Catholic Magisterium. In this sense prospective protestants might be a little daunted by its overwhelmingly Catholic manner. Nevertheless, Ave Maria has earned renown for its law school, which honors the Socratic teaching style and the natural law tradition.
U.S. News & World Report ranks Ave Maria as a tier-2 liberal arts university—not bad given the schools newcomer status. The school’s president and founder, Tom Monaghan, is better known for founding Domino’s Pizza. His work with the school is business-savvy and conservative in its Catholic commitments. Monaghan has also earned scorn and praise for his views on family values—saying pornography, abortion, and contraception should be prohibited from the school and its surrounding town.
What puts Ave Maria on this list, however, is its small size, its liberal arts curriculum, and its social and political conservatism. This school exists for more than for its own sake; it aspires to be a (Catholic) moral light in a morally compromised society.
19. Best School in the State: Oklahoma Baptist University (Shawnee, OK)
Oklahoma Baptist University is the number-one rated university in the state, and it just happens to be Christian.
Known for its pre-med and nursing programs, OBU also offers respected programs in business and education. Adding to their undergraduate strengths, OBU has a small graduate school with master’s programs in nursing, business, and—starting in the fall of 2012—energy management. Though a liberal arts school, classicalists or Great Books students might be bored or turned off by the vocational emphasis and pragmatism of OBU.
OBU, like many other Christian schools, is not outstanding for homeschoolers specifically, but for Christian students generally. That is, its authentic Christian environment, its academic recognition in regional rankings, and its accreditation makes it a safer and stronger option than many state schools or liberalized private schools.
Though OBU lacks ATS, TRACS, or SACS accreditation, the school has regional accreditation and is a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), as well as the Association for Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools. The cost is an affordable $27,000, and the size, at just under 2,000 students, is modest.
Overall, OBU is academically respectable with high placement ratings for graduates and ease of transfer into graduate schools.
20. Catholic Conservatism in Virginia: Christendom College (Front Royal, VA)
Founded in 1977, Christendom is a small, Catholic, liberal arts college committed to the Magisterium, or teaching authority, of the Roman Catholic Church.
The graduate school is devoted solely to theology, with a choice of degrees in systematic theology, moral theology, or catechetics. The undergraduate school offers only Bachelors of Arts—no science degrees—but what they do, they do well. Their liberal arts core is a full 84 semester hours, almost three times the length of many majors.
Christendom earned top-10 ranking in Young America’s Foundation’s list of conservative colleges. Like Ave Maria (#13), Christendom offers an impressive study-abroad program, partnering with Rome, including pilgrimages to Assisi and Florence, in Italy.
The cost to attend is just under $30,000. Non-Catholics should be warned that this school is intentionally Catholic and—unlike the University of Dallas—expressly trains students to be or become Catholic.
The liberal arts tradition here is not ecumenical, but is distinctly Roman Catholic. There is daily mass, rosary, adoration, and confession. All professors are signed and confessing Roman Catholics.
Since Protestants generally are not embraced as such, even though they are the vast majority of homeschoolers, Christendom is ranked fairly low, despite its high marks for conservatism, size (450 students), and its strengths in philosophy and the humanities.
21. Mandatory Bible Component: Cedarville University (Cedarville, OH)
Tucked away in rural Ohio, between C0lumbus and Dayton, lies a thriving Christian school over 100 years young—Cedarville University. This reformed Baptist school has theological roots in Presbyterianism and the Regular Baptists. It stands today as a broadly evangelical, but mostly Baptist, liberal arts university.
Degree options at Cedarville cover the spectrum of humanities and science degrees, wider and more specialized than most schools on this list—over 100 accredited degree programs in all. The variety of programs is rivaled by the depth of study offered. Student groups from Cedarville have won awards in various fields, including business, engineering, forensics, debate, politic studies, and more.
While these benefits are good, what puts Cedarville on this list is that it has earned a reputation for espousing strong Christian, conservative values, fortified through its mandatory daily chapels, strong ethics code, and ministry-intensive campus life. Cedarville is a medium-to-large size school, enrolling 3,200 students, including 60 graduate students. The cost is about $31,000 a year.
The school may strike some as “fundamentalist,” but is a far cry from, say, Bob Jones University. All undergraduates have to complete a 16-hour Bible minor, but there is no apologetics or philosophy program to speak of, though there is a Center for Bioethics, which may overlap with some of the cultural apologetics issues relevant to nursing, pharmacy, or pre-med students.
This school is broad in scope, with many degree options like pharmacology, social work, engineering, art design, and theater. But this is not a Classical or Great Books school; nor is it a philosophy or apologetics school. Students who go here should expect intentional biblical worldview integration within a Bible-intensive course load.
22. Guild-Style Apprenticeships: Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (Merrimack, NH)
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts emphasizes a Classical education within a Catholic worldview. Located in southern New Hampshire, about a 45-minute drive from Boston, Thomas More should not be confused with similarly named schools elsewhere.
Founded in 1978, this school offers a Great Books, Classical curriculum styled after that of the University of Dallas. There is only one undergraduate program, and no majors. All students enlist in a liberal arts degree.
Despite its small size, the school sponsors a faith and culture journal, Second Spring, and networks with the Centre for Faith and Reason at Oxford University. Typical of Catholic schools, Thomas More sends students to study abroad in Rome for a semester. To keep students useful, and not just educated, the school has begun a medieval guild–style apprenticeship program in arts and music.
The school is tiny, at 77 students; the cost is about $27,000 a year.
23. Reconciliation, Art, and Theology: Bethel University (Arden Hills, MN)
Bethel University is rooted in the Scandinavian Baptist tradition of the Baptist General Conference, now known as Converge Worldwide.
Bethel University began as a Chicago seminary, then migrated to St. Paul, MN, where it merged with Bethel Junior College. Later, it moved to suburban Arden Hills and assumed its current name. Bethel University is known today for its Baptist Seminary and its School for Executive Leadership. It is a regular standout in national rankings by Forbes and U.S. News & World Report.
Incoming students consent to a Covenant of Life Together, outlining general and basic moral guidelines, such as refraining from extramarital sex, gambling, illegal drugs, and tobacco. Bethel entered the national news a number of years ago for a racist spray-painting incident by some students. Though that incident was no fault of the school at large, Bethel has adopted a racial reconciliation stance that is noteworthy, especially for relatively racially homogeneous Minnesota.
The undergraduate and graduate schools offer a wide array of study tracks, including 12 pre-professional degrees, 63 other undergraduate majors, and 40 undergraduate minors. Two rare inclusions are: (1) a major in Art and Media Studies, via a distance course program with the New York Center for Art & Media Studies; and (2) a major in Reconciliation Studies.
Classes cost from $490 to $605 per credit hour, amounting to a modest total cost of about $30,000 per year. Bethel University is also one of the larger schools on the list, at 6,400 students (graduate and undergraduate).
Homeschoolers can find here an excellent route to seminary, business leadership, or the performing arts.
24. A Family Atmosphere with a Global Vision: Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, CA)
Thomas Aquinas College bucks the trend of unanchored academic pluralism, offering instead a single, integrated, liberal arts program not unlike that of New Saint Andrews College (see above). TAC, however, frames this study within the framework of the Roman Catholic Magisterium. This is a Great Books curriculum, replacing textbooks with the foundational texts of Western Civilization.
Though the school is small, with about 360 students, there are resident dorms and a modest campus life, including intramurals, ministry gatherings, yearly classic plays (such as Shakespeare), choral concerts, and numerous other musical recitals. There is no married housing on campus or intercollegiate sports.
Students can expect regular Catholic mass and confession, along with extensive use of the renowned Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Also supporting a Christian environment is a reasonable but firm code of conduct, including ethical staples of religious schools such as no visitation with the opposite sex.
Though modest in size and scope, this little school has earned plaudits from the Princeton Review, Forbes, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), the Cardinal Newman Society, the National Catholic Register, U.S. News & World Report, and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, with awards including “Best Value,” “Best in the West,” “Lowest Debt,” “Strongest Curricula,” “Top Catholic Colleges,” and the never-to-be-forgotten accolade of “dorms are like palaces.”
So, what does this acclaimed education cost? About $33,000 per year.
25. Faculty Mentoring: Wisconsin Lutheran College (Milwaukee, WI)
Prioritizing leadership, ministry, and one-on-one mentoring by professors, Wisconsin Lutheran College is more than a school, it’s a leadership garden.
WLC maintains small class sizes (10:1), a small enrollment (about 1,000), and a modest price (about $32,000). However, the effects are big. WLC has won awards for conservatism, for quality of professors, and for liberal arts. Outstanding at this school is the faculty mentoring, allowing students significant face time with their professors.
WLC offers over 30 degree tracks for undergraduates, and pre-professional degrees in law, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, nursing, and veterinary sciences.
WLC is a good fit for students wanting a specialized degree in a personal setting.
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This survey would be incomplete without some warning about schools that homeschoolers are likely to find attractive, but that also pose risks they should be aware of:
Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL)
About 25 miles outside of Chicago lies Wheaton College, a medium-sized, non-denominational, Protestant school considered by many to be the best Christian college in the country.
Wheaton boasts of numerous awards and the full array of accreditations. It is a member school in the Tony Blair Faith Initiative. It costs about $40,000 a year, enrolls 2,920 (as of 2011), and is known for its world missions, its music department, and its psychology and counseling.
But what makes Wheaton distinctive is its broad liberal arts curriculum, while still clinging to is Christian heritage. For academic credibility, this feature wins high marks. However, for the interests of homeschoolers, this school will strike many as pluralistic, theologically liberal, and lacking unity.
To be sure, many fine students come through Wheaton with faith fully intact, and for those students Wheaton is a great place to broaden their horizons. But Wheaton is also a place for overexposure, ideological confusion, and theological, social, and political liberalism. Moreover, despite Wheaton’s elite academic status and strong Christian heritage, it loses clout for lack of any apologetics degrees and its largely uncritical teaching of evolution.
Baylor University (Waco, TX)
“The mission of Baylor University is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.”
Thus reads Baylor’s Mission statement. Taken at face value, this kind of vision could lead prospective students to think the school is the premier Christian University in the country. Indeed, Baylor is a rising academic heavyweight whose athletics are already nationally renowned, with 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Lee Griffin, III, as well as the 2012 women’s basketball national champions.
Baylor was once a Southern Baptist Affiliate, but now has Baptist affiliations with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Though Baylor still boasts of being the largest Baptist school in the nation, Christianity at Baylor is fragmented, with some departments (especially in the liberal arts and natural sciences) almost completely secularized.
Students do not have any doctrinal confessional statement to sign, and faculty and staff subscribe to only a nominally Christian confession, and even that has been challenged in the name of “academic freedom.” The Baylor administration censored (“expelled”) computer-engineering professor and intelligent-design phenom, Robert J. Marks, II, and also forced out its president and Christian educational visionary, Robert B. Sloan.
As of this writing, it’s unclear whether Baylor’s new president, Ken Starr, will forsake anti-Christian academic elitism in favor of a robust Christian higher education.
Furman University (Greenville, SC)
Also a former Southern Baptist School, Furman University was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention until 1992.
But following the typical theological and social compromises that occur in higher education, Furman eventually parted ways, abandoning its historic Christian heritage and pushing academic pluralism (a valuable component of academic freedom) into religious and ideological pluralism, implying that that all religions and all ideas should be given equal respect. Students visiting the chapel, for example, should check the schedule to make sure they do not interrupt a Buddhist meditation session or an Environmental Feminist New Age lecture. Of course, students can instead just meditate at the “Place of Peace,” a former Buddhist temple transplanted piece by piece and reassembled on Furman’s campus.
This compromise is in tandem with Furman’s aspiration to become a leading Ivy League–style school for the Southeast, having more Ph.D.’s than any other liberal arts school in the region. Furman is an academic heavyweight and prospective homeschoolers should approach this school like they would an Ivy League school. They should not expect much cultural reinforcement to support or strengthen their faith—quite the opposite. They should expect the classrooms and culture to be hostile towards intelligent design, creationism, biblical inerrancy, and traditional family values.
Furman’s Christian heritage is a thing of the past and their “liberal arts” has given way to a flaccid pluralism.
Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC)
Perhaps the strongest reason parents may want to send their homeschool graduates to Bob Jones University is that it seems doctrinally “safe,” taking strong stands on several key evangelical issues such as biblical inerrancy, creation, traditional marriage, etc. To many parents, Bob Jones has the appearance of a homeschool extension campus, extending their child’s protective bubble across their entire college career.
However, Bob Jones takes its fundamentalism to troubling lengths. Its Christian education is compromised by undue suspicion of psychology, philosophy, and the Great Books, manifesting as poor integration of faith and learning. And Bob Jones is overly pietistic. For example, the 2011-12 student handbook says, “Students are to avoid any types of entertainment that could be considered immodest or that contain profanity, scatological realism, sexual perversion, erotic realism, lurid violence, occultism, and false philosophical or religious assumptions.” Ironically, the Bible includes all of these elements, and so students are either not allowed to read the Bible or are not allowed to be entertained by the Bible.
R-rated movies are prohibited. There is an 11 pm curfew, with 12 pm lights-out across all dormitories. All students must live in campus dormitories or with their family. Also, while the school does not endorse a “King James only” doctrine, it is commonly known to have fostered several other tenets of hyper-fundamentalism. Moreover, BJU did not admit black students until the 1970s, and did not drop its prohibition on interracial dating until 2000.
For some students, the strict rules and firm convictions may suit them just right. In general, however, the university culture is legalistic, hyper-fundamentalist, insecure, and generally not recommended for graduating homeschool students.
Ivy League Schools
Who would not want their children to attend top-tiered schools such as those of the Ivy League: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, or the University of Pennsylvania? Even homeschoolers can rationalize attending these schools since all of them (except Cornell) have Christian historical roots, Christian mottos and logos, and even Christian clubs.
But these schools present significant pitfalls to incoming students, especially homeschool students. No school is free of temptations, but these are more dangerous than others because the university culture is so heavily slanted against the social, political, and theological values that homeschoolers are likely to bring to campus. Instead, these schools are so bent on overexposing students to radical and fringe ideas that students can readily lose their bearings.
These schools are academically prestigious, but “loss-of-faith” stories about their graduates are too numerous to recount. These schools are tempting to successful students—successful homeschooled students may even be actively recruited by these schools. But for the homeschooling community these schools can be as toxic as they are tempting.
For the homeschool graduates with the maturity, intellect, and apologetics skill set to handle attending such schools, they should expect to have their faith questioned and challenged on a near-daily basis. Their family values will be flooded with incompatible values and ideas. They will have to manifest grace, patience, love, and diligence on all sides, if only to earn enough respect to have their views tolerated within an otherwise hostile environment.
Also, they will do well to associate with such groups as Veritas Forum, Ratio Christi, Reasonable Faith, Campus Crusade, Campus Outreach, and Baptist Collegiate Ministries, as well as with theologically sound local churches and the scant sampling of professors who remain solid and unashamed in their Christian faith.
If homeschooled students can stand fast through the battering they will receive at these schools, they will be the better for it. If they don’t, they will be swept away. Seek out the wisdom of parents, teachers, counselors, and alums in determining whether the Ivy League is right for you.