What Are Catholic Colleges?
According to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), there are over 200 Catholic institutions of higher learning in the United States. These schools receive official designations by Catholic orders and institutions and are dedicated to a liberal arts core curriculum based on a centuries-old Catholic intellectual tradition.
U.S. Catholic colleges serve an estimated 950,000 students at undergraduate and graduate institutions. They span 40 states, and student bodies—which are not limited to Catholics—can range from under 1,000 to over 20,000 scholars. More than 40 distinct founding congregations and orders account for an exceptionally large range of schools, each with its own specific traditions. They may be founded as Benedictine, Jesuit, Augustinian, or Franciscan schools, or they may be independent Catholic institutions.
The precise meaning of a “Catholic education” has evolved and continues to change as colleges and universities promote diversity in their student body along with a modern curriculum. Today, Catholic education is holistic in nature, with an emphasis on values and service. The amount of theological participation required of each student depends on the spiritual and academic requirements established by the specific school. For example, some Catholic universities require a theological concentration within degree programs, while some colleges allow students to choose theology majors or minors. Other schools are post-Christian or only culturally Catholic and require students to take courses—such as sociology or history—that have incorporated theology lessons into the overall course.
The breadth of academic scope at many Catholic colleges and universities compares to that at non-Catholic institutions. Much like non-denominational institutions, Catholic colleges are home to major medical schools and hospitals, research laboratories, and business and law schools. Catholic colleges also offer traditional campus mainstays such as professional associations, fraternities and sororities, campus clubs, athletic teams, performing arts halls, and recreational facilities.
Students pursuing a life in the ministry will find a solid selection of undergraduate as well as master’s and doctoral studies that prepare students in magisterial, Sacred Scripture and Catholic traditions. Separate certificate programs are offered for students seeking a Catechetic specialization.
Online Education at Catholic Colleges
Much like non-denominational institutions, Catholic colleges have embraced distance learning to meet the needs of adult learners and others who need or simply prefer the flexibility of online programs. Saint Leo University, for example, offers online programs that are identical to the courses that are offered at their traditional Florida campus. With its robust online offerings—from associate degrees to doctoral programs—the school aims to provide the same high quality education as its physical campus so that graduates meet the demands of the job market for a variety of industries. Students can log in at anytime, from anywhere with an Internet connection, to review lectures, complete assignments and participate in discussions. Course material is delivered via video, audio and CD-ROM and students can purchase necessary textbooks from the school’s online store or from a local bookstore. All assignments, quizzes and exams are completed online and evaluated by professors.
Online students also receive the same kind of academic and career support as traditional students. Most online Catholic colleges have faculty and staff dedicated to career guidance, academic advising, professional tutoring and technical support to ensure that students meet their academic goals. Some Catholic colleges, such as Saint Leo University, also help connect students outside of the virtual classroom by offering online clubs and organizations, peer mentoring and school social media portals.
Catholic colleges tend to depend on tuition and fees for revenue, which means that their cost can run a little more than public non-denominational institutions. For many students, the cost of college plays an important factor in decision-making so finding a Catholic college that fits within your budget is key.
Cost, however, is not the only important thing. Available online course and degree options as well as online support services are also factors that online Catholic college students should consider. The following list highlights the most affordable Catholic colleges to help you determine which school is the best match to help you achieve your faith-based academic goals.