Connecting the dots

As many Christian institutions struggle, Waynesburg uses mission as solid foundation

In a recent report done by The Chronicle of Higher Education, it’s evident that due to a general decline in undergraduate enrollment, private Christian institutions especially are fighting to keep prospective students and newly-enrolled freshmen interested.

The article, titled, “To Stay Competitive, Small Christian Colleges Emphasize Specific Niches,” looks at several different Christian schools that are each offering a variety of individualized specialties, including vocational workshops, online classes and study abroad opportunities.

Waynesburg University President Douglas G. Lee is familiar with the tactics utilized to make a private Christian institution “survive,” but he said one thing he was shocked to find wasn’t mentioned once in this article was the importance of an institution’s value.

“The cost of a four-year college degree is at the forefront of the public attention in the last several years and Waynesburg is a national leader in value and outcomes,” Lee said. “That is definitely a distinguishing factor that is also a very large factor students consider when deciding on a particular institution.”

In December, Waynesburg College Factual recognized Waynesburg as a “Best For the Money” school in the top five percent nationwide and ranked as the second-best in Pennsylvania.

Lee believes the low-cost, yet high-quality education Waynesburg provides is a big factor for drawing in prospective students each year.

“I think what helps us is our mission, but also the value that we provide,” Lee said. “That’s what we have to do.”

Another aspect Lee said contributes to students choosing Waynesburg over other institutions is the university’s overall commitment to student success, both inside and outside the classroom.

“This is a very large reason why our post-graduation placement rates are always near 100 percent in the surveys we receive from our graduates,” Lee said.

This pursuit of success and education is also done through the development of new programs and majors, along with external partnerships and special events. Lee said he was blown away at the turn-out of the “Big Dream Gathering” event that took place on campus earlier this month. To him, it was a testament to what the university needs to start focusing on more.

“That’s what our students are interested in — that’s what they are going to need; adaptability and problem-solving skills,” he said.

More than anything, Lee said it all comes back to the university’s mission of faith, learning and service.

“I truly do believe that the concept of mission at Waynesburg University is taken very seriously by all and that truly has made a tremendous difference,” Lee said. “It is not something that we just talk about rather, it is something that we do.”

Even if every other aspect of the university crumbled, Lee said to have a mission “that really resonates with people” could be a sole sustaining factor.

“It’s not easy,” Lee said, “but without a mission or without something people can identify with or wrap their arms around, there’s no vision — there’s no