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Notre Dame's tiny namesake shows plight of religious colleges

Nic Querolo, Amanda Albright, Francesca Maglione, Bloomberg News on

Published in Lifestyles

Times are hard on the campus of Notre Dame.

Not the famous University of Notre Dame, home to Fighting Irish football and more than 13,000 students — little Notre Dame College, a less prestigious Roman Catholic school in the Midwest.

Over the past decade, the 102-year-old private college with about 1,400 students, located in South Euclid, Ohio, has watched its enrollment wither by a third. In January, the school announced it was exploring its options, including tying up with nearby Cleveland State University.

Similar stories are playing out at many of the 850-or-so colleges in the US that have religious, usually Christian, affiliations.

The economic vise tightening around the nation’s small secular colleges is squeezing religiously affiliated schools even harder. Some have closed already. More are bound to follow, administrators say.

The diverging paths of the two Notre Dames reflect the confluence of two powerful forces in the US today: economics and faith.

 

But their stories also encapsulate the gaping cultural, financial and political divisions that have come to define so much of American life. Conservative Christian students are heading in one direction. Secular liberal ones are heading in another.

First, the economics. Rich, prestigious colleges, whether secular or religious, are pulling further and further away from their poorer, less-well-known counterparts.

As in the Ivy League, the competition is heating up to get into famous Catholic institutions such as University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University and Boston College (the acceptance rate at Georgetown, dubbed the “New Brown,” has fallen to 12% from 16% over the past five years). Prominent Protestant universities such as Baylor University in Texas and Pepperdine University in California are doing just fine, too, as are Evangelical institutions.

But many smaller Christian colleges are struggling.

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