Christian colleges have a long history in the U.S., as many of the nation’s oldest universities started out primarily as training schools for clergy. In fact, renowned Brown University owes its founding to Baptist ministers and still maintains a Baptist Collection in its library that details its Baptist origins. While many of these early universities, such as Harvard and Yale, have since evolved into secular institutions with separate divinity schools, others rose up over time that still maintain Christian education as central to all of their academic programs. Among these Christian colleges were many Baptist colleges that have preserved their heritage in our modern world. We encourage students to consider a college’s heritage when choosing a Baptist college.
One of the oldest Baptist institutions is Mississippi College, a Southern Baptist college in Clinton, Miss., that was founded in 1826 and is affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Today, the college lays claim to being the second oldest Baptist university in the country and even offers online undergraduate and graduate degree programs. While Mississippi College does not operate primarily to train Baptist pastors, it does incorporate Bible courses into its core curriculum and allows students to earn credit for attending chapel services.
Many Baptist colleges have received national prominence for their quality of education and athletic teams. One of such colleges is Baylor University in Waco, Texas, which is a Tier 1, nationally ranked research institution that has also been recognized for its value, sustainability, athletics, and for being among the best colleges for minorities. While most of Baylor’s undergraduate majors are traditional, the university also has a theological seminary that prepares students for careers in ministry or other areas of Christian service and leadership.
Baptist Bible colleges, such as Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wis., tend to offer a greater variety of undergraduate majors related to ministry. Maranatha offers majors in biblical counseling, church ministries, missions, pastoral studies, and youth ministries alongside more standard majors in business, English, humanities, nursing, etc. Courses at Maranatha are taught from a biblical worldview, all degree programs include a biblical studies core, and students are required to attend a local church. Maranatha also offers online courses and programs.
Deciding on a Baptist Bible College
Making up your mind on which Baptist Bible college to attend can be tough, particularly considering you can choose from 70 Baptist colleges in the U.S., not to mention more than 20 Southern Baptist colleges, nearly 20 American Baptist colleges, and even a few options if you prefer a Free Will Baptist Bible college or a North American Baptist college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). One good way to narrow down your search is to use College Navigator, a service of the NCES, to filter your college search. From the homepage, you can click on “More Search Options” and scroll down until you see a drop-down box for “Religious Affiliation.” By selecting which Baptist denomination that you most closely identify with, such as Southern Baptist, American Baptist, or Free Will Baptist, you may be able to narrow your search a great deal.
In addition, the Southern Baptist Convention maintains a list of Baptist colleges and universities by state that prospective students may wish to consider. The SBC website also has a list of Baptist seminaries. The traditional SBC colleges list includes top universities like Baylor University and Liberty University, as well as smaller schools that may be less familiar to you. You will need to closely evaluate whether you would prefer a Baptist college with a large and diverse student body or a smaller, more intimate community.
A Note on Accreditation
Once you start researching individual schools, make sure that you verify each university’s accreditation status. Regional accreditation is the most recognized kind of accreditation a college or university can earn, and attending a regionally accredited school generally makes it easier to transfer credits, if you end up needing to do so. Just as you want to verify a school’s commitment to a strong Christian community, you will also need to verify its academic standards. By closely examining a Baptist college’s heritage, denominational affiliation, availability of online programs, size, and academic quality, you can make an informed decision on which Baptist Bible college is best for you.