More Than Head Knowledge: 3 Things Every Wesleyan Should Know about Higher Education
It's that time of year to take accounts, assess progress and cast vision for the future. At ECD we asked, "What is the state of Wesleyan Higher Education?" ECD Executive Director Russ Gunsalus shared with us three things every Wesleyan should know about our institutions of higher education.
1. The Wesleyan educational community is thriving, often against the odds.
In a time of financial and cultural pressures on universities, Wesleyan educational institutions continue to be vibrant, transformative forces in the church and the denomination.
"Our schools are full of dynamic, passionate Christian faculty and administrators who do excellent work and care deeply about impacting the lives of their students," shares Gunsalus.
At Southern Wesleyan University, administrators partnered with state and educational leadership through a new program providing housing and care for special needs adults. Through this mutually beneficial relationship, SWU students learn and provide care to a population in need of support.
Faculty and administrators contribute as proactive members in their regions, influencing community norms and even state and national policies. Dr. David Wright, President of Indiana Wesleyan, for example, regularly participates with his state's taskforce on religious freedom.
"Wesleyan schools are committed to developing educational programs that are missional and bring about justice and human flourishing," Gunsalus highlights.
2. Wesleyan education is a wise financial and spiritual investment.
Families considering colleges for their kids have plenty of high-quality options among Wesleyan higher education.
Providing five regional choices and a myriad of majors, men and women from every district are ensured a convenient option. These schools include Houghton College, Indiana Wesleyan University, Kingswood University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University and Southern Wesleyan University.
With generous scholarships awarded to students, Wesleyan colleges and universities provide excellent value among private schools. The average debt of a Wesleyan student upon graduation is $20,000, significantly less than the average university students. As the Wesleyan college-educated workforce continues to gain higher wages than those without college degrees, those loans will quickly turn to profit.
Discipleship is a key distinctive of Wesleyan education, as students live in Christian community and engage in opportunities for spiritual growth. With accessible faculty, high-quality chapels, required Bible classes and opportunities for spiritual engagement, students attending a Wesleyan college or university experience more hours per week of spiritual discipleship than a highly-involved church member. (Click here to see how 4 years at one of our universities is a proven investment in the spiritual formation of Wesleyan Youth).
"In sending students to one of the Wesleyan colleges or universities, the discipleship investment made by churches and families over the years gets reinforced, leveraged and expanded," Gunsalus remarks.
These perks aren't just for young adults. Clergy and adults can now take courses online, making continuing education affordable and convenient. The Wesleyan Church offers scholarships to all clergy and clergy-dependents, as well.
"It's an excellent financial investment and a priceless spiritual investment," counsels Gunsalus.
3. Wesleyan Higher Education Catalyzes The Church.
While the trend among Christian schools has been separation from the church, Wesleyan education maintains a flourishing relationship with its larger church community, sharing a single mission statement and supporting its ministries.
Students graduating from Wesleyan colleges and universities become active members of their congregations, transforming every area of their communities through the formative education they received under the discipleship of faculty and fellow students.
In partnership with local congregations and clergy, Wesleyan colleges and universities also share resources through academic programs and services like pastoral conferences and training.
In the future, Gunsalus hopes to see increased partnership between churches, clergy and colleges where each can serve, enhance and augment each other. "We're on the cusp of announcing sabbatical retreat locations on our campuses."
With expanded opportunities for partnership, the church body will experience increased educational opportunities, as well as economic savings through effective utilization of Wesleyan facilities.
If Wesleyan higher education made a New Year's resolution, it would be to continue as a strong, vibrant and growing presence in its communities and in the culture at large. Maintaining a vibrant relationship between The Wesleyan Church and Wesleyan colleges and universities, together we can pursue the vision of "Transforming lives, churches, and communities through the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ."
Gabriela Garver is a staff writer for Education and Clergy Development. Recently returned from a year studying in Istanbul, Turkey, Gabriela is finishing her undergrad degree in International Relations at Indiana Wesleyan University. To learn more about Gaby and our Staff Writing Team, click here.