Getting to Know Our Schools
Why are there Presbyterian colleges?
When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)
To serve God with our mind has been a distinctive hallmark of the Reformed tradition, particularly for Presbyterians. In fact, higher education is the oldest continuous form of church mission for Presbyterians beyond the local congregation. In the U.S., this dates back to the founding of The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) by Presbyterian clergy in the 1600's. From there, the missional emphasis on higher education continued to spread across our new nation until, by the start of the Civil War, one forth of all the colleges in the U.S. were Presbyterian.
Today, our schools stretch across the country from St. Petersburg, Florida to Spokane, Washington, and around the world to Daejeon, South Korea, offering a wide range of opportunities for college students seeking an education that touches the mind, the heart and the soul.
What will I find at a Presbyterian college?
While we have a diverse group of schools, you'll find that most are small to medium-sized liberal arts colleges that emphasize classroom learning. However, almost all of them also provide options for experiential learning through internships, co-ops, and/or study abroad. At some, you can even design a degree specifically tailored to your interests and career plans.
Most of the classes are taught by professors, not graduate assistants and the average student-faculty ratio across our set of schools is about 14:1 This allows faculty to know you--in and out of class--and provides options to build personal relationships with your teachers that wouldn't be possible at larger public or private institutions. This can be of great value as you prepare for the next step in your life--whether that means moving directly into your career or advancing to a graduate or professional school.
Of course, you'll also find a full range of campus activities, including athletics (varsity & intramural), student government, music, drama, Greek life, gaming, spiritual life, and a variety of service opportunities.
Are Presbyterian colleges different from other colleges?
Yes...and no. Every Presbyterian college has its own unique characteristics, not to mention its own distinct set of academic programs and facilities. At some of our schools students tend to be more liberal, at others, more conservative. Some of our schools strongly emphasize their Christian heritage, while others tend to be more secular. However, they do share a common respect for their Reformed heritage, which means they emphasize knowledge and truth, ethical and moral values, respect for all people, and service to others.
Where does the church fit in?
It depends. While all of our schools were founded by Presbyterian missionaries, pastors or local agencies of the church, they operate independently and are governed by their own boards of trustees. Still, a number of them maintain covenants with a local Presbytery or Synod that typically states their common commitment to educational opportunity and to serving the common good. Support from the Presbyterian Church (USA) typically comes through scholarship assistance for students and through partnerships that provide collaborative service opportunities for students, faculty and staff.
Will I be required to study religion and attend chapel?
Once again, it depends. All of our schools have general education requirements (like every school) that students must meet. At some schools this might include religion and/or philosophy. These courses are included primarily because the contribute to a well-rounded education while exploring topics that are relevant in today's pluralistic world. As for chapel attendance, it's usually voluntary and designed to accommodate a range of faith traditions.