Our Role in Advocacy
As an effective and respected advocate for Christ-centered higher education both in the United States and around the world, the CCCU provides a unified voice to highlight the contributions of our institutions to the common good. We also advocate for the right of each of our institutions to practice their sincerely held religious beliefs. We are uniquely positioned to speak to national leadership in the halls of power on behalf of every individual Christian college and university that is part of the CCCU.
Through this work, we are preserving a form of higher education that enriches the diversity of higher education nationally and internationally as institutions who educate whole persons created in God’s image. CCCU institutions practice a coherent approach to education in which the development of the mind, spirit, body, and emotions are seamlessly woven together in the quest not just for knowledge, but also for wisdom. CCCU institutions train future leaders who are deep thinkers and equipped doers, committed to working for the common good of their communities because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Religious Freedom and Institutional Autonomy
These educational commitments are quite distinctive in the landscape of higher education. Thus, the ability of CCCU institutions to educate according to their mission is crucial. CCCU institutions stand united in their support of institutional autonomy and the principles of religious and associational rights that undergird it. This autonomy is essential for each institution to be able to contribute to the higher education landscape in its unique way and thus comprises a foundational value of the CCCU. Since its founding, the CCCU has led in advocating in the courts, with Congress, and within presidential administrations for the freedom of its institutions to exercise their First Amendment rights. These rights of religion, association, and speech ensure CCCU institutions should be able to teach as well as maintain policies that are consistent with their religious beliefs and convictions while participating fully within the public square.
Faith-based higher education institutions increasingly face discriminatory challenges from multiple parties, including state and local entities, private actors, and accreditors. Current federal regulations require accreditors to respect these institutions’ religious missions, but what it takes to live out those religious missions in a holistic way is increasingly misunderstood or scrutinized. Accreditors have questioned religious universities’ biblically based behavior standards. Public schools have refused to place in learning classrooms student teachers from religious colleges, and public hospitals have disallowed nursing students from religious colleges to do clinical training, or hire their graduates. Athletic associations have been pressured to exclude religious colleges from their leagues. Local governments have canceled contracts and attempted to cancel direct student funding for those who want to attend a religious college or university. The Higher Education Act should ensure that accreditors and other actors are required to respect religious missions and not interfere with the academic success of any student.
Title IX offers a religious exemption for institutions “controlled by” a religious organization for practices aligned with their faith. However, many religious colleges and universities have their foundation and fidelity to biblical creeds and/or confessions rather than a denomination – that is, they are fully religious but not directly tied to an organization. As a result, these schools have had Title IX paperwork delayed (but never denied) because the Department of Higher Education is handcuffed by outdated definitions and procedures. We continue to work with the Department of Education to fix this – it’s time for a full, complete, and open rulemaking process.
Historically, faith-based institutions have not been required to set aside their religious identity or principles when they have received federal contracts or grants or have provided goods or services to the government. Similarly, they have been allowed to hold hiring and employment practices consistent with their religious convictions, including on topics of sexual conduct and gender identity. However, recent executive orders from the U.S. government have muddied the waters, casting uncertainty on these hiring practices. Thus, we continue to work with leaders in the Trump administration and elsewhere to clear up the confusion in the short term and encourage permanent legislation to secure religious hiring rights for the long term.
The CCCU has been exploring a legislative initiative sometimes called Fairness for All. This initiative seeks to find a way to simultaneously combine federal protections for religious freedom and for LGBTQ persons, two “sides” that have often viewed their protections as be violated by the existence of protections for the other. Specifically, Fairness for All would create legal protections for LGBTQ persons in the basic areas of public space (employment, housing, stores, and restaurants), financial services, and jury duty service, while at the same time explicitly adding to the law the full scope of religious rights ensured by the Constitution.
We cannot depend on the courts to rule favorably on religious liberty issues when legislation doesn’t stand alongside to clarify the people’s intent. Consider the Supreme Court’s record under both Chief Justices Rehnquist and Roberts: For all cases that involved only First Amendment claims and not an accompanying statute, the Court has protected religious freedom only about 50 percent of the time—and that’s going all the way back to 1987.
Christian colleges serve a greater percentage of first-generation and lower-income students than other types of colleges. As such, student families attending our schools depend upon financial aid both from our institutions and from federal and state governments. We work to ensure state and federal financial aid remains accessible to students who want to attend a Christian college or university so that high-quality, Christ-centered education is available to all students – not just those who are part of a higher income bracket.
38.7 percent of CCCU undergrads are Pell recipients, a larger percentage than any comparison group. At the same time, our students’ 5.4 percent loan default and 70 percent 5-year repayment rates are the best in higher education. CCCU institutions also have more “skin in the game,” allocating about $11,900 per student in institutional aid. College cost concerns have generated reform ideas such as completely tax-funded tuition, making college increase their “skin in the game,” and consolidating aid into a one grant/one loan framework. The CCCU supports expanding Pell to year-round use, expanding the Second Chance Pell pilot program for incarcerated Americans, streamlining student aid, and smart simplification efforts that maintain institutional flexibility to serve the neediest students.
Currently, individuals incarcerated in a federal or state prison are ineligible to receive Federal Pell Grants and federal student loans. Even without this federal support going to students, several CCCU institutions are operating successful education and rehabilitation programs for prisoners that make prisons safer and help prepare prisoners to re-enter society. Research from the RAND Corporation shows education programs reduce recidivism; inmates participating in educational programs are 43 percent less likely to recidivate. Also, for every $1 spent on educating prisoners, the cost of incarcerating prisoners over three years drops by $5. The CCCU supports Second Chance Pell and restoring Pell and federal student aid eligibility to prisoners.
The 2007 Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and its 10-year eligibility requirement for loan forgiveness are just becoming operative. The Obama Administration issued new rules in 2012 that appeared to unnecessarily prohibit some positions and work in religious nonprofits from counting toward the 10-year requirement. We believe the restriction is unconstitutional and needs to be clarified so that such work again qualifies for eligibility.
Rules for the use of federal work study dollars unfairly and unnecessarily discriminate against certain types of work that is performed for faith-related groups, and in particular places on campus, in ways that disproportionately impact our colleges and their commitments.
Our institutions work in a wide variety of ways to follow the biblical commands to care for those who live on the margins and in the forgotten areas of society—including those who want to pursue higher education but are in the United States illegally through no fault or decision of their own. Along with our friends on the Evangelical Immigration Table, we support bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that:
- Respects the God-given dignity of every person;
- Protects the unity of the immediate family;
- Respects the rule of law;
- Guarantees secure national borders;
- Ensures fairness to taxpayers; and
- Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.
We also work with our campuses to find ways to better support their undocumented students and their families so they can complete their education and use their talents and education to serve Christ and those in their communities without fear.
Many young people were brought to the U.S. as infants or young children by their parents who entered the country illegally. Undocumented through no fault or decision of their own, these young adults have limited ability to pursue an education. Many came out of the shadows and registered with the government under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted eligible recipients temporary permission to stay in the U.S. and obtain work permits. If the government decides to let DACA expire and roundup affected persons for deportation, the costs are estimated to be up to $60 billion in government expenditures and an additional $280 billion in reduced economic growth. We support extending DACA policy, at least as a temporary step, so that these students can have greater opportunity to contribute to the country they consider home.
We hold the Christian belief that all human beings, without exception, are invested with inherent worth and dignity. We advocate for the well-being of the underserved and marginalized, for the protection of people of all faiths from religious persecution, and for the preservation and advancement of religious freedoms. Likewise, the CCCU supports efforts to prevent genocide. Accordingly, the CCCU supports efforts to welcome refugees and believes that the United States should welcome refugees and should never favor or discriminate against a potential refugee because of their religion, or non-adherence to a religion.
We hold the Christian belief that the Earth and the entire universe are God’s good creation. We advocate for the sustainability and preservation of the Earth.
When it’s done well, federal regulation of higher education provides standards of excellence and promotes the collection and sharing of valuable and valid information about the performance of higher education in general and of specific institutions. However, federal regulation often becomes burdensome and overly detailed, and it can—intentionally or unintentionally—discriminate against certain types of educational institutions, including religious institutions. We support reasonable and cost-effective regulatory guidance and requirements that do not discriminate against Christian higher education, and we work closely with both Congress and the U.S. Department of Education on these issues.
During the Obama administration, the Department of Education sought to quantify a college or university’s value for a student by setting up a national rating system using data such as the average annual salaries of its graduates. But for CCCU institutions—where many graduates are called to serve in such places as churches, schools, nonprofit organizations, and mission hospitals that have lower compensation practices—measures such as these are particularly problematic. We support efforts to find ways to assist students in their search for their best-fit colleges for the vocational, community, and life choices they will make—including choices to follow callings that might provide lower financial compensation.
In recent years, the Department of Education has started bypassing the normal rulemaking procedures to lay out new policies—letters, FAQ lists, and press releases have all been used to announce mandatory changes to key higher education policies. Congress took notice, and a bipartisan task force on higher education regulation released a report in 2015 called Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities, which urged the department to return to the regular order of rulemaking—one that gives all types of colleges and universities, including religious ones, a voice at the table. We have and will continue to support the report’s guiding principles because the U.S. higher education system will be at its best when all types of universities and colleges are fully able to participate in creating the rules that guide them.
When Title IX was first passed in 1972, its purpose was to ensure equitable treatment of male and female students. In the last few years, regulators have reinterpreted the term “sex” to cover a wider range of sexual harassment and related issues and have mandated rules and procedures for all campuses—regardless of size, mission, and record. Campuses should be free from sexual assault and harassment, and we agree that government regulators should be committed to working with all colleges and universities to achieve the goal. But for many CCCU institutions, which have smaller campus sizes and very low rates of sexual assault and harassment, the broad nature of regulations puts a tremendous burden on already strained resources. That’s why we seek new rules—created with widespread input from the higher education community—that take into account factors such as a college’s prior history of incidences and responses in the areas of sexual harassment and assault.
12 Steps to Improving Local and State Advocacy
In the wake of SB 1146, the advocacy experts at the CCCU have developed a guide to help you and your campus more effectively engage with your state and local policymakers on relevant issues.