Date of Award

Spring 1996

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




While much has been written about the numerical decline and apparent erosion of religious identity at Protestant church-related colleges, little has been written about colleges which seem to have retained their religious identity while attaining academic credibility. Indeed, in many instances, the pursuit of academic credibility and stature is cited among the reasons for leaving behind a professed religious identity. This suggests that there are relatively few colleges which have successfully balanced the retention of religious identity with academic credibility, as historical evidence indicates. Indeed, of the 182 permanent American colleges founded before the Civil War, over 75 percent professed a Protestant church-related identity; of the 3,501 colleges that existed 130 years later in 1990, only 16 percent fit this description. The challenge of combining religious identity and academic credibility has continued to the present day among American Protestant church-related colleges. Noting the need to retain a strong religious identity when carrying out a higher education mission, former Minnesota Governor Albert Quie, addressing the National Congress on Church-Related Colleges and Universities, stated, "One thing I can guarantee you-if you become more and more like the public institutions, there is no reason for your existence. There is only one reason for church-related colleges to exist, and that is for the distinction that they were founded in the first place. " Conversely, Jencks and Riesman maintained that the slackening of religious identity is a necessary step for any college serious about its academic reputation: "Over the past century several hundred formerly sectarian colleges have dropped their church ties and have become officially non-sectarian. " These conflicting opinions one emphasizing the retention of religious identity and the other stressing the pursuit of academic credibility-are representative of the ongoing tension...



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