What about Other Catholic Colleges?
There are more than 200 Catholic colleges in the United States, but The Newman Guide only recommends 18 of them (plus several non-residential, international, and online ones).
Many Catholics who are unfamiliar with the state of Catholic higher education are often shocked to hear this. Why recommend only about 10 percent of America’s Catholic colleges?
For one thing, we don’t include schools that offer only or primarily graduate degrees. The Newman Guide is focused on undergraduate education. The colleges that are included are evaluated only for their undergraduate experience, even when graduate degrees are offered.
Second, we strive to identify and recommend model Catholic colleges. These are the very best with regard to Catholic identity, and often in many other respects. Although we are always open to including additional colleges that meet our criteria for Catholic identity, we like it to be known that these colleges are examples for others to follow.
The colleges that are not in the Guide display varied attention to Catholic identity. Families who are looking at other colleges will want to be cautious and investigate carefully, using the questions below to determine just how secular the college has become. But we don’t believe that protecting the souls of Catholic students is a minor concern; it is the chief concern for a Catholic parent. Even a lukewarm Catholic college can have a devastating impact on a Catholic student, so we caution strongly when considering any college not in this Guide.
Put bluntly, the majority of Catholic colleges have lost sight of what it means to be Catholic. You can visit many Catholic campuses with little or no indication of their religious mission. The Cardinal Newman Society has kept a close watch for more than two decades, and we’ve seen countless examples of professors undermining the faith, liturgical abuse, promotion of pro-abortion politicians, and the “hook-up” culture pervading dorm life.
An in-depth study a few years ago found that at least one in twelve students at a Catholic college leaves the faith by graduation. Moreover, students are more likely to move away from Church teaching than towards it on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. Mass attendance drops for about one third of students who attend a Catholic college. Over the years, we have heard from many heartbroken parents with kids who lost their faith after attending a Catholic college—usually at great financial expense to their family.
Lest parents think that a secular education is a better option, know that the stats are worse for students who attend state or private secular institutions. Not so long ago, these could be viewed as at least neutral with regard to matters of faith. Today that is no longer the case in many classrooms, and campus life is often a terrible test of a students’ moral fiber — even for the most virtuous men and women.
Fully aware of the crisis in Catholic education, we resolved to create a resource to help Catholic families navigate the search for authentic Catholic colleges. There are plenty of college guide books out there, and it’s easy to find out whether or not an institution simply claims to be Catholic. So instead of producing just another fact sheet, we decided to offer recommendations for the Catholic colleges that take their faith seriously.
We initially sent out surveys to every Catholic college in the country, conducted hundreds of phone interviews, and spent countless hours researching the important details. The number of colleges we could recommend quickly narrowed, but there were still a few institutions for which it was difficult to decide.
The University of Notre Dame was one of the hard choices. At the time there were faithful professors and students on campus (and there still are). But there were also clear examples of opposition to the faith from many on campus.
In order to resolve our dilemma, we spoke with the late Dr. Charles Rice, a faithful Catholic and long-time law professor at Notre Dame. He helped us find the bottom line. He said that at Notre Dame, “a kid who is struggling with his faith will sink like a stone.”
We have used Dr. Rice’s advice as a lodestar for The Newman Guide ever since. While we vet each institution thoroughly, if we do not feel that students will have a reasonable chance of receiving strong support in the faith at a given Catholic college, we do not recommend it.
Over the ten years since our conversation with Dr. Rice, our basis of evaluation has expanded and deepened. We consider all aspects of college life as it relates to Catholic identity, including faculty, theology, core curricula, majors, campus ministry, residence life, student activities, student body, and institutional identity and leadership.
The Cardinal Newman Society is committed to giving Catholic families recommendations for the Catholic colleges that are faithfully Catholic from the top down, inside and out.
If you are interested in a Catholic college that’s not in The Newman Guide, we have prepared a shortened version of our Catholic higher education questionnaire. It can help you know what questions to ask during phone calls, emails, and campus meetings with admissions officers. May God bless you in your college search!
Copyright © 2020 The Cardinal Newman Society. Permission to reprint without modification to text, with attribution to author and to The Cardinal Newman Society, and (if published online) hyperlinked to the article on the Newman Society’s website. The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Cardinal Newman Society.