Indeed, students often select colleges because the institution is “a nice fit,” meaning it conforms to them just as they conform to it.
Private schools with a religious emphasis provide a strong example. If a student wants to be among Protestant fundamentalists, Bob Jones University is the place to go. There are Catholic colleges, Baptist institutions and a variety of others. Though most of these have students of other faiths, the institution’s policies reflect the beliefs of its affiliated denomination.
Public universities have attempted to offer students a variety of faith-based activities carried out by church-sponsored organizations associated with the campus. The Baptist Campus Ministry, Wesley Foundation and the Newman Center only a few such groups. Some have their own facilities. Some even have their own residence halls.
Now, Troy University is undertaking an interesting, indeed novel, approach to attracting students. Through its private foundation, Troy will open a housing complex specifically for students seeking a faith-based collegiate experience.
According to the university, a national and internal survey revealed that “faith was significantly more important to Troy students than students at other public institutions.” While one might question whether faith was more important to students at Troy than at, say, Jacksonville State University, it is reasonable to assume that faith is important to students down there. Based on that assumption, Troy will give these students a place where they can be with their own.
Argue what you will about the need for a college to offer students the social, economic and religious diversity they will face once they graduate. But there is also the argument, advanced by John Schmidt, a senior vice chancellor at Troy, that colleges should “assist students in building a value-based life.”
Therefore, students in the new complex, which some on campus are already calling “the church,” are expected to take part in community service projects, not use illegal drugs or alcohol in the dorm (a policy for all Troy dormitories) and maintain a 2.5 grade-point average.
To get into the new dorm, a student must be engaged in a campus faith-based organization and maintain an active spiritual lifestyle.
Preference will be given to Christian students, though non-Christians will be admitted “if there is space available.” There won’t be much; only about four or five spaces remain.
The popularity of the dorm underscores another aspect of the effort — attracting students who might otherwise go to a private faith-based school.
As universities struggle to attract more students, expect to see more efforts to identify potential markets and cater to them. Troy University has found such a market and has taken the initiative to capture it.