Mission, Formation, and Diversity: A Research Project on Adult Education Programs at Church-Related Colleges

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 01/01/1996
End Date: 
Thu, 04/30/1998

Church-related institutions of higher education are increasingly implementing non-traditional degree-granting programs, including distance-learning programs. Diane Winston and a team of researchers studied the impact of such programs on the religious missions of faith-based schools as well as the ways that faith-based institutions shaped and directed the education and development of non-traditional students. The team found that adult learning programs are growing rapidly at small church-related institutions, particularly those struggling financially. The students who attend these programs tend to be of various faith backgrounds. Consequently, they present these colleges with the dilemma of catering to students who do not always share the colleges’ religious mission. Other concerns raised by Winston include the secularization of these institutions, the possibilities of influencing the religious, professional, and social bearings of adult learners, and the prospect of an increased diversity in the student body leading to a revitalization of the participating faith-based institutions’ mission.
<p>The findings of the project were compiled into a report, “The Mission, Formation, and Diversity Survey Report: Adult Degree Programs at Faith-Based Colleges.” Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. The findings indicate a range of possibilities for adult programs across a wide variety of religious settings. One of the most significant findings of the study was the divergence between administrators’ expectations and the actual experiences of students. Despite administrators’ assumptions that these adult learning programs would initiate changes in students’ religious and social activities, there is no indication that actual behavioral changes took place as a result of these programs. (KH)