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Is college education a lost cause? We have reason to hope, but only if we know what real education is.

Crisis: “decisive point in the progress of a disease,” also “vitally important or decisive state of things, point at which change must come, for better or worse,” from Latinized form of Greek krisis, “turning point in a disease, that change which indicates recovery or death.” Oxford English Dictionary

American colleges and universities have reached a moment of crisis. Because of the drop in births that began some years ago, the population of college-age students is approaching a “demographic cliff” beginning in 2025. But a surprising decline in enrollment has already begun. Accrediting organizations expected a decrease in this year’s incoming classes of perhaps 150,000 students, whereas the actual figure was a stunning 1.2 million.

The reasons for the drop are complicated, but they indicate growing unease about the future that higher education is supposed to help sustain. Vast sums of taxpayer money fund programs whose open purpose is to undercut traditional thought about enduring principles and to destroy piety toward the institutions for which our forebears sacrificed blood and tears. Successfully indoctrinated graduates of such colleges and universities (especially the “elite” ones) enter the administrative state, the unelected “fourth branch” of government, where they deploy legal force to dismantle hard-won wisdom — for example, about marriage and the family, or about preventing factional differences from destroying the country. These initiates casually refuse to punish crimes against anyone who dares oppose them, as we have seen in the attacks on pregnancy resource centers. If they lack official power, they organize riots and make a great deal of intemperate media noise and try to use shame (which they decry if anyone applies it to their own actions) with its full, ancient force against their enemies.

When such graduates enter the public K-12 classroom (an extension of the administrative state), they defy the rights of parents and the dictates of common sense, egged on by education departments and teachers’ unions. The craze of transgenderism that they encourage staggers one’s imagination. In addition to inculcating their Marxist assumptions, they promote unforgiving personal grievance and sexual self-realization above all other human goods—a luxurious self-regard achieved by only a few pampered despots in the most decadent ages of the past.

Colleges and universities have been instrumental in this accelerating drift toward ideological tyranny. Is this return on investment the reason for declining numbers? Obviously not every federally funded college is guilty and not even the worst are guilty in every way, but enough of them are guilty as charged to raise the question: is this what the American people want the “educated” to know and do? Why are our citizens willing to subsidize this kind of indoctrination with hundreds of billions of dollars annually?

I ask because Wyoming Catholic College was founded to counter this cultural indoctrination, not by becoming a mere political tool, but by finding its center in the great, humane, joyful pursuit of the whole truth. Our students love Jesus Christ and open themselves to the movement of the Spirit in reverent forms of worship. From the first moments of freshman year, they have a hands-on experience of creation in the Mountain West, where they encounter both the hard limits that nature imposes and a grandeur witnessed by few in the contemporary world. In class after class, they take on the challenging tradition of Western thought, and they wrestle with the true questions raised instead of dismissing the very existence of great works as an attempt to “legitimize Western hegemony.” They think through the principles of our nation’s liberty, which was won through ongoing trials—few more desperate than today’s.

And who supports this uniquely noble, life-changing endeavor at Wyoming Catholic College? Like-minded private citizens, not the government. In a recent article, the American gadfly Malcolm Gladwell explains that colleges and universities get their operating funds from three primary sources: government grants, student tuition, and endowment. For reasons of religious liberty, Wyoming Catholic College does not take Title IV funds for student loans. For many years, we managed student loans ourselves, and we had to get by until our graduates could begin to pay us back.

Student tuition covers about half of what we need at best. And our endowment? Let’s say that we are in a very different situation from Princeton University, which Gladwell describes as a “perpetual motion machine.” Their endowment is so immense at over $37 billion that the annual return on it, figured at 10%, is $3.7 billion—almost twice the operating expenses for the University on a yearly basis. They reinvest the remainder back in the endowment, which grows and grows. As Gladwell points out, Princeton does not need tuition revenues, alumni contributions, an advancement team, or any other source of income. They can go on forever on what they already have. “If you had a car that would run forever, would you still stop for gas?” asks Gladwell.

By contrast, Wyoming Catholic College has no endowment to speak of. Still a young college, we depend, with gratitude, on the yearly contributions of extraordinary, committed donors who help us make up what is lacking from our student tuition. It is always a struggle. Not at Princeton. Donors to that wealthy institution (founded in 1746) gave it over $68 million last year, even though it did not need a single penny. A tenth of that sum would be an endowment that our college (which opened in 2007) could build upon for years to come. Princeton has its unquestionable bright spots, but it also kowtows to wokeness. There, as elsewhere nationwide, ideas inimical to human nature fatten unnaturally on endless money. Why are parents who know better willing to risk the souls of their children for the brand-name “success” that these prestigious colleges promise?

Wyoming Catholic College fights back against this dominant artificiality in the best ways. We are small and lean and real. We have had major challenges, but we have dealt with them forthrightly. We know that we are teaching the love of truth. We hope in God, and we trust that He will bring us the support we need. On this Feast of the Archangels, we pray to Michael and Gabriel, but most of all to Raphael, whose prayer (a favorite of Flannery O’Connor’s) is uniquely beautiful and appropriate: “Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for.”

Republished with gracious permission from Wyoming Catholic College‘s weekly newsletter.

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