September 20, 2005


More students are drawn to conservative colleges: Enrollment is up at smaller colleges with Christian values. Some think students hope it will launch political careers. (Adam Karlin, 9/21/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

In these politically polarized times, a rising number of top conservative students are politicizing their school choices. Instead of going to a Princeton or Stanford, they're opting for less costly home-state universities or smaller schools that see themselves as standardbearers of Christian values and laissez-faire governance. Such choices are perhaps a boon to those who intend to pursue careers in politics, since conservative think tanks increasingly are recruiting from these colleges.

"Schools like Grove City, Brigham Young, and Hillsdale are some of our more popular schools," says Elizabeth Williams, intern coordinator for the conservative Heritage Foundation, in an e-mail. "Their students are usually of very high caliber."

That doesn't mean there has been an exodus from established East Coast schools, which consistently draw outstanding students of every stripe.

"We have far more students on the right than I used to know when I was vice president of Boston University," says Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president of George Washington University in Washington.

But enrollment at several conservative Christian schools is on the upswing. For example: Patrick Henry College in Virginia, whose mission is to "prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values," first opened its doors in 2000 to 87 students. This year, enrollment stands at 330, and the median SAT score for its freshmen has also jumped, from 1170 to 1340 in the same period.

At Franciscan, Ms. Shultis's new school, where a fledgling group of Democrats disbanded because of lack of interest, enrollment has topped 2,000, up 220 in the past four years. Average grade-point scores of incoming freshmen have also risen.

If I were applying to college today -- and had grades that didn't require me to go to a school that my family had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to -- I'd certainly be interested in such places.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 20, 2005 6:53 PM

I know a bunch of folks who went to St. Thomas More college in Merrimack NH. In fact two friends are now on the board of trustees.

Conservative Catholic school. The alums that I know are an mpressive group, a high % of phds, get into good grad schools etc. This from a school with, I believe, under 100 students, and a handful of majors. Costs well under 10 grand a year iirc.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 20, 2005 7:55 PM

My younger brother is at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and from everything I've heard the students there are of a very high caliber.

I agree with OJ that the more conservative religious colleges are, slowly but surely, taking over the field for many students who care about getting a serious education. Why dole out $30,000 a semester to major in transgender Maoist theory at some screwball Ivy League sinkhole?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 20, 2005 8:05 PM


Because the class is being taught in the Orrin Judd Room?

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2005 8:12 PM

OJ, I'm curious, why did you grow up in the ghetto if your family had that kind of dough?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 20, 2005 9:08 PM

Perhaps you had my family's problem: my maternal grandfather was rich while my father came from a shanty-Irish family. It seems quite possible that my rich grandfather hid his money somewhere -- this would have been in-character for him -- but he developed Alzheimer's as he grew older and we couldn't ask him where it was, and after he passed away we never found the windfall. So I'm stuck driving an '89 Toyota Corolla with 192,000 miles on it, instead of a Porsche.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 20, 2005 9:25 PM

Dad was a minister and Mom a schoolteacher. We didn't have the money.

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2005 9:26 PM

Sounds like your family was loaded in previous generations...I'm just wondering if there is some magnificent tale of monetary dissolution in there somewhere.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 20, 2005 9:31 PM

Nah, we're WASPs--the money's still around; it just goes in trust funds so you can't squander it. Sent us all to college though & Grandma died a millionaire, though she still saved margarine tubs and stole all the sugar packets in restaurants...

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2005 10:52 PM

Highfather traded Orrin to Darkseid as part of a peace deal between New Genecis and Apokolips.

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 21, 2005 10:25 AM

So does that make OJ's wife Big Barda?

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 21, 2005 12:20 PM

I sure wouldn't pick a fight with her.

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 21, 2005 12:39 PM

OJ, I didn't know you were an affirmative action baby!

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 22, 2005 3:39 AM


Got my only A in college in a course taught in the Orrin Judd classroom.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2005 7:37 AM