Christian Colleges and Federal Student Aid



Grace University

I read a story at The Blaze over the weekend about a lesbian who was kicked out of Grace University, a private Christian college, in Omaha, NE and then billed $6000. The school says this to cover the federal loans and grants she received that must be repaid since she didn’t finish the semester. The U.S. Department of Education said that her debt was between her and her school, but it didn’t have anything to do with federal rules.

The story seemed rather one-sided mainly because Grace University declined the case due to student privacy laws. The former student, Danielle Powell, said she was confronted about her relationship and was suspended. The Blaze reported:

As required by the university after her suspension, Powell said she promised not to engage in sex and completed months of church attendance and meetings with Christian mentors, spiritual advisers and other groups. She was then readmitted, only to receive a letter days later from the university’s vice president, Michael James, revoking her admittance.

James wrote that her re-admittance had been based on professions she made to various faculty and staff that she would change her behavior, but that “the prevailing opinion is that those professions appear to have been insincere, at best, if not deceitful.”

“I was livid,” Powell said. “I had done everything they asked me to do. I drove over to my mentors’ house and just bawled my eyes out.”

First off, her expulsion was justified. She agreed to a code of conduct. She said she was surprised by all of this because she grew up in a “religious home” and a ban against homosexuality “did not fit in with what I believed.” It doesn’t matter, the school was clear in the code of conduct she agreed to. Secondly, she said she did everything they asked, but did she break off the relationship? Who knows? We are only getting her side of the story. They could have expelled outright, but they did outline a restoration process.

Regarding the money if the school is not required to repay the federal money then they should drop the matter. The Blaze reported that they will release her transcripts and transfer her credits. It isn’t unusual for schools to hold both, it’s the only real leverage they have for payment.

Here is where the story starts to concern me:

In response to questions about the case from The Associated Press that included Powell’s financial aid letter, the U.S. Department of Education said in an email Friday that the issue of whether Powell owes money is between her and the school — but “it’s not at all because of federal rules.”

The department said it would need to analyze any case to determine if a school had violated federal discrimination regulations. But it noted that educational institutions controlled by religious organizations are exempt from some federal requirements that might conflict with the organizations’ religious tenets.

Grace and other private colleges that accept federal student aid — sometimes called Title IV funding — must abide by the Civil Rights Act that forbids discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, age or physical handicap. But sexual orientation is not included in that list.

“There’s a long history of institutions of higher education that are faith-based participating in Title IV programs without having to compromise their institutional statement of faith or institutional statement of practice,” said Ronald Kroll, director of the accreditation commission for the Association for Biblical Higher Education, which includes Grace University.

Look to see an attempt made to keep Christian colleges from receiving any type of federal student aid if they do not allow students who are openly homosexual to enroll or discipline them if that is discovered that they are after enrolling.

Is it possible to maintain a Christian school without federal financial aid? Sure, but it would be difficult to make that shift. It would also be incredibly difficult for students to attend, full-time at least, without the aid. From first hand experience, most of my aid came from loans which I would been better off without. It would have just taken me longer to finish, but I would have graduated debt free.

Thoughts?

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  • Teressa Edwards

    Shane – regarding Christian colleges not accepting Federal financial aid – it can be done. College of the Ozarks has gone it successfully for decades: http://www.cofo.edu/

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      Approved

  • Leslie Beck

    I wonder if we need to go a step further and look at colleges that also do not accept any federal funding at all – it gives them a lot more freedom. These are the ones I was able to find:

    Christendom College – VA

    George Wythe University – UT

    Grove City – PA

    Hillsdale College – MI

    Monticello College – UT

    Patrick Henry – VA