20 Best Conservative Christian Colleges

College can present a difficult choice to conservative Christians. Most secular colleges and universities’ teachings and campus cultures, especially those at public colleges, don’t align with the beliefs of conservative Christians, and you certainly won’t find religious classes or majors that teach the Bible from a conservative Christian point of view. Broadly speaking, we have defined the term conservative Christian, for the purposes of this article, to mean evangelical colleges and universities that teach theology and cultivate a conservative campus culture in line with the belief of conservative evangelical Christians. Theologically liberal colleges tend to interpret the bible in a much less literal, more metaphorical way. It’s not hard to find either politically liberal or theologically liberal colleges these days, but don’t despair! There are plenty of conservative colleges of various denominations to choose from. Christian higher education is incredibly diverse both politically and theologically. It is just as, or maybe more, diverse than secular higher education. You can read more about that, how we selected these schools, and other topics of interest in the FAQ after the ranking.

Reviewing the Best Conservative Christian Colleges

#1. Cedarville University

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Score: 100

Cedarville University is a conservative college located in Cedarville, Ohio. The university was founded in 1887, and while it is an independent Baptist university, it is endorsed by the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. One of the major Baptist authorities on higher education, Cedarville offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. Some of the undergraduate programs can be completed in just three years, including majors in biology, communication, English, finance, history, management, marketing, music, nursing, pharmaceutical sciences, psychology, social work, and worship.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional Midwest #21
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $393,000
  • Tuition: $32,564
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 74%

#2. Walla Walla University

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Score: 93.46

Walla Walla University is a conservative college located in College Place, Washington. The college was founded in 1892 and is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Walla Walla is denominationally accredited, in addition to its regional accreditation. The school offers over 100 areas of study, mostly undergraduate programs. Students will find a variety of STEM programs on offer in various engineering specialties, as well as programs like biochemistry, bioengineering, biology, biophysics, chemistry, and computer science.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional West #75
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $404,000
  • Tuition: $29,930
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 59%

#3. Southern Adventist University

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Score: 92.12

Southern Adventist University was founded in 1892 as Graysville Academy in Collegedale, Tennessee. Southern Adventist is considered to be one of the most conservative colleges in the country. The school offers seven graduate degrees and 22 areas of undergraduate study (some areas of study offering upward of 10 degrees). Some of the areas of study offered are business, mathematics, nursing, physics, religion, social work, engineering, biology, chemistry, and journalism and communication.

  • U.S. News Ranking: #68 Regional South
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $316,000
  • Tuition: $22,930
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 70%

#4. Union College-Nebraska

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Score: 90.69

Union College is another conservative college associated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was founded in 1891 and is accredited by the Adventist Accrediting Association, in addition to its regional accreditation. Union College offers academic programs in areas like the arts, business, health care, humanities, liberal arts, natural sciences, pre-law, pre-med, religion, and more.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional Midwest #38
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $362,000
  • Tuition: $25,340
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 51%

#5. Northwest University

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Score: 88.20

Northwest University is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination. Its many undergraduate degrees are offered through its colleges of arts and sciences, ministry, business, education, nursing, social and behavioral sciences, and leadership studies. The school offers degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional West #52
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $341,000
  • Tuition: $33,980
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 58%

#6. Lee University

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Score: 87.50

Lee University is a conservative college affiliated with the Church of God denomination. It is among the 103 Christian colleges who are part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The college is situated on a gorgeous campus in Cleveland, Tennessee. The school offers its many undergraduate degrees through its colleges of arts and sciences, education, business, music, nursing, and religion.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional South #33
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $160,000
  • Tuition: $19,540
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 86%

#7. Crown College

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Score: 86.33

Located in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, Crown College is affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. This conservative college offers many undergraduate degrees on campus and 24 associate and bachelor-level degrees online. Online bachelor’s degrees offered by this conservative Christian college include programs in business, biblical studies, Christian ministry, entrepreneurship and innovation, global and cultural studies, and human services.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional Midwest #119
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $217,000
  • Tuition: $27,980
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 90%

#8. California Baptist University

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Score: 86.23

California Baptist University is affiliated with the California Southern Baptist Convention and was founded in 1950. This conservative college offers a massive selection of undergraduate degrees, including 27 online bachelor’s degrees. Some of the online degrees are accounting, business administration, Christian ministries, Christian studies, communication studies, computer information technology, criminal justice, cybersecurity, early childhood studies, organizational leadership, and public administration.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional West #40
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $195,000
  • Tuition: $36,340
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 88%

#9. Concordia College

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Score: 85.44

Concordia College, located in Moorhead, Minnesota, is a conservative Christian college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The college has a student body of 2,500, and it offers 61 undergraduate majors and 12 pre-professional programs through the schools of health professions, arts and sciences, and business. Music is a big part of campus life, with the school maintaining five choirs, two orchestras, three jazz ensembles, three bands, two handbell choirs, and two percussion ensembles.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional North #136
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $276,000
  • Tuition: $36,000
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 82%

#10. Houghton College

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Score: 84.28

Houghton College is nationally ranked as a top liberal arts college. Houghton is affiliated with the Wesleyan Church. With approximately 1,000 students, Houghton is a small community. The school offers 50+ undergraduate majors, seven of which are offered online. The online programs offered are in Christian ministries, criminal justice, human resource management, integrated marketing communication, leadership development, organizational management, and psychology.

  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #127
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $150,000
  • Tuition: $34,466
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 88%

#11. Concordia University-Irvine

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Score: 84.18

Located in Irvine, California, Concordia University-Irvine is affiliated with the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church. It is one of nine conservative colleges in the Concordia University System, many of which are also included in this ranking. The school offers around 20 distinct undergraduate majors with 50 specializations among them. There are also nine graduate programs and three nursing programs offered. The school is located between the major cities of Los Angeles and San Deigo.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional West #49
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $299,000
  • Tuition: $38,000
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 59%

#12. Cornerstone University

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Score: 80.29

Cornerstone University is a non-denominational conservative college and a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. As of 2020, student enrollment was just under 2,000. Cornerstone has over 70 undergraduate programs to choose from, including programs in audio production, biblical languages, chemistry, commercial music, computer information systems, computer science, film and video production, graphic design, and music production, to name a few.

  • U.S. News Ranking: #76 Regional Midwest
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $209,000
  • Tuition: $26,250
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 65%

#13. Maranatha Baptist University

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Score: 80.06

Maranatha Baptist University is a private Baptist liberal arts college with an informal affiliation with the Foundations Baptist Fellowship International. The school offers 35+ undergraduate degrees through its colleges of Bible and church ministries; arts and sciences; and of business, education, and nursing. Its nursing programs are accredited through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  • U.S. News Ranking: #36 Regional Midwest
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $29,500
  • Tuition: $17,650
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 95%

#14. San Diego Christian College

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Score: 76.59

San Diego Christian College is a conservative college that is both evangelical and non-denominational, located in Santee, California. In addition to its many traditional on-campus programs, SDCC offers several online bachelor’s degrees, including programs in Christian ministries, communication, human development, leadership, and psychology.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional West #18
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $150,000
  • Tuition: $33,312
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 64%

#15. Concordia University-Nebraska

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Score: 72.48

Concordia University-Nebraska is another member of the nine-university system associated with the Lutheran Church’s Missouri Synod. This conservative college offers 75 undergraduate degree programs in areas like agricultural education, agricultural science, applied communication, art education, church music, graphic design, healthcare management, information technology, mathematics, and physics. Of the 75 programs, 21 are pre-professional programs.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional Midwest #37
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $119,000
  • Tuition: $34,900
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 63%

#16. Concordia University-Wisconsin

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Score: 71.81

Founded in 1881, this Lutheran university, located in Mequon, Wisconsin, is another of the nine conservative colleges associated with the Lutheran Church’s Missouri Synod. The Christian university offers 75+ undergraduate programs and 17 graduate programs. The school has roughly 3,800 undergraduate students and slightly more graduate students. 22 of the undergraduate degrees are accelerated programs in areas like elementary education, nursing, applied computer science, applied exercise science, business analytics change management, business management, communication and leadership, and more.

  • U.S. News Ranking: National #258
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $233,000
  • Tuition: $31,182
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 61%

#17. Malone University

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Score: 71.65

Malone University is located in Canton, Ohio and is affiliated with the Evangelical Friends. The college maintains its Quaker identity and has a diverse campus with over 50 denominations accounted for among its student body and several non-Christian students present on campus as well. The motto of the University is “Christ’s Kingdom First”. There are 45 areas of undergraduate study, many with multiple degrees offered.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional Midwest #71
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $165,000
  • Tuition: $32,416
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 54%

#18. Ohio Christian University

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Score: 71.56

Ohio Christian University is located in Circleville, Ohio and was founded in 1948. It is affiliated with the Churches of Christ in Christian Union. The conservative college offers undergraduate programs through its schools of business, education, music and worship leadership, social and behavioral sciences, and theology and ministry. Programs include marketing and consumer behavior, information technology, middle childhood education, English, history, music, political science, and Christian ministry.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional Midwest #119
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $70,200
  • Tuition: $21,990
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 57%

#19. William Jessup University

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Score: 71.15

William Jessup University was founded in 1939 and is a non-denominational conservative Christian college. It has a student population of around 1,200 and offers programs through its schools of business, education, professional studies, Christian leadership, Bible and theology, natural and applied sciences, and humanities and visual & performing arts. This Christian university has both an institute for biodiversity and the environment and an institute for public policy.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional West #2
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $129,000
  • Tuition: $37,000
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 53%

#20. University of Northwestern-St. Paul

University of Northwestern St. Paul

Website
Score: 70.60

The University of Northwestern-St. Paul is a non-denominational conservative college located in Roseville, Minnesota. This Christian university is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The school offers roughly 65 undergraduate majors in areas like business administration, psychology, public relations, Spanish, visual arts education, and ministry. Students also have the chance to go on missions trips centered around intercultural studies.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional Midwest #65
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $89,900
  • Tuition: $33,200
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 69%

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you define conservative Christian college?

That’s a good question, as both the terms “Christian” and “conservative” are subjective. While people may believe their definition to be the correct objective definition, it is clear to us that with over 20,000 Christian denominations, not all of which recognize each other’s legitimacy, there is no universal answer to this question. We went with the solution of using a list of colleges and universities provided by the conservative Christian website Christian Answers. Put simply, their definition is what they see as theologically, and not necessarily politically, conservative. Thus, the featured schools all have in common a literal young-earth creationist interpretation of the book of Genesis. In order to be included in the list, schools have to take the theological stance that creation happened in six 24-hour days, that there was no death before sin, and that there was a literal worldwide flood. The list is maintained and has been updated as recently as June 3, 2021.

After establishing this list of over 150 schools, we applied the ranking requirements. Schools were automatically excluded if they had a graduation rate of under 50% or if they were not regionally accredited. These exclusions will be further explained in the FAQ regarding our ranking.

How did you rank the schools?

The ranking system was devised primarily as a comparison between schools that met the qualifications for inclusion in the ranking. Thus, points were awarded for tuition based on how much less each school cost than the most expensive school in the ranking, how close to 100% graduation rate each school is (including the transfer-out rate of each school), how close each school was to the highest 20-year net return on investment of all the schools in the pool, and how highly ranked each school was, either nationally or regionally (with regional ranking weighted slightly less than national ranking).

Our ranking philosophy is to identify which schools are the best deal. This is why we factor in things like graduation rate, net return on investment, how expensive a school is before financial aid, and how respected the school is by the broader academic community (U.S. News ranking). The weight of each category is as follows.

  • Tuition: 10%
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 30%
  • 20-Year Net Return on Investment: 30%
  • National Ranking: 30%
  • Regional Ranking: 20%

Seeing as it is impossible for any school to score 100%, grades are then curved by bringing the highest-scoring school up to 100% and adding the difference between 100% and the highest-scoring school’s original score to the score of each other school. It should be noted that the ranking is designed so that the schools involved are compared to each other, not to other schools that are not included in the ranking. So, if you want to compare them to other schools in other rankings, use the raw data provided on the ranking factors to determine which might be a better deal!

Any tips on how to pay for college?

Absolutely! FAFSA is the most important thing when it comes to paying for school. The bulk of your financial aid, from both the government and your university of choice, will come from filling out and submitting the FAFSA. Financial aid is a limited resource, so in order to have the best chance at getting the most financial aid you qualify for, make sure to submit your FAFSA as early as possible. You can submit it even before you start applying for colleges!

That brings us to applying for colleges. The best colleges tend to offer great financial aid. Check out the admissions procedures of all the colleges you’re interested in. If any of your prospective choices have early application, then apply! Always apply as early as possible. Colleges’ financial aid resources are always more limited than the federal government’s, so the earlier you enroll, the more financial aid you will get. Applying at the last minute might see you accepted, but with much less financial aid, as many of the scholarships will have been dispensed already.

Private scholarships are another great way to supplement your federal and institutional financial aid. Many churches offer scholarships to students attending an in-denomination school, or just a Christian school in general. So make sure you ask your church leadership about potential scholarships. Who knows? Even if they don’t have one, maybe asking about it will encourage them to start a scholarship program! For more information on scholarships, how to get them, and more, check out our many great scholarship articles on this website!

Do any of these schools offer online programs?

Many of these conservative colleges offer at least some online degree programs. Some even have quite a good selection of online bachelor’s degree programs. I mentioned some of the schools’ online bachelor’s degree offerings in the descriptions, but even for schools where I didn’t include information about online degrees, some may be offered. So, if one of these conservative colleges interests you and you want to study online, definitely check out what they have to offer!

What is the difference between theologically conservative and politically conservative?

It is true that it is more likely for students at Christian conservative colleges to hold politically conservative beliefs. This is not always the case however, as theologically conservative beliefs and conservative political beliefs do not always go hand in hand. It’s also the case that the most conservative colleges theologically tend to have a lot of students with conservative values. This means that students with conservative values can be reasonably certain they will find many other students with conservative values at such schools. It would be rare, for instance, to find a theologically conservative college that affirms gay marriage, due to the college’s literalist interpretation of some of the Bible’s more socially conservative translations. Theologically liberal colleges tend to have more of a mix of students with socially liberal values and socially conservative values.

What kind of campus culture will I find at conservative colleges?

Most conservative colleges have student bodies with conservative political beliefs and dedication to religious practice. Conservative colleges often have a variety of Christian-focused extracurricular activities. These can include worship service, Bible studies, prayer meetings, and more. In addition to student-led activities like Bible studies, it’s often common for there to be regular required chapel services, many schools require students to be part of a ministry off campus, and some Bible studies might even be led by faculty or administration (like the school chaplain). Another convention you will often find at conservative colleges is the honor code. These tend to be additional strictures meant to enforce the core values of the school. This often includes a ban on premarital sex; watching R-rated movies or tv shows with high amounts of sex or violence, especially on campus; same-sex relationships; and sometimes even kissing, hugging, or other public displays of affection. Most conservative colleges tend to have a much more strict honor code and dress codes than liberal colleges.

It should be noted that just because a college is called a liberal arts college does not mean it’s liberal. A liberal arts college simply focuses on classical styles of education, which means interdisciplinary methods, and an integration of the arts with the sciences. So if you saw that our ranking has a liberal arts college or two, don’t be scared off. The liberal arts college just takes a more classic approach to education, which in itself is actually a somewhat conservative approach. Whether or not a college or university is a liberal arts college has no effect on its theology or campus culture. There are incredibly conservative liberal arts colleges, as well as incredibly liberal liberal arts colleges. While most conservative colleges are regular colleges, there are many conservative Christian liberal arts colleges.

Why isn’t X college on this list?

There are many potential reasons a college may not have been included. Many of these may not be as theologically conservative as they are politically conservative. Schools like Brigham Young University, Grove City College, and Hillsdale College are all well known, but they may just not have met certain criteria, like inclusion on the list of conservative Christian colleges we used as the initial pool for our ranking. This could indicate that they may not be theologically conservative enough, even if they might be politically conservative. Others, like the famously conservative Bob Jones University, simply may not have scored high enough according to our metric.

GCD Staff

July 2021

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This concludes our article on the 20 best conservative Christian colleges.