Lauren Kleyer-Staff Writer
Although Dordt is seeing one of its highest attendances in history at 1,430 students, the number of students with a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) background is dropping.
In 2010 the number of CRC students attending Dordt was 49%, in 2011 it was 47%, in 2012 it was 46%, and this year it is down to 45%, said Quentin Van Essen, executive director of admissions.
According to Van Essen, the next most popular denominations on Dordt’s campus are non-denominational (6.8%), United Reformed (6.6%), Reformed Church in America (5.5%), Baptist (5.1%), Evangelical Free (4.4%), Protestant Reformed (4.0%), Lutheran (3.8%), and Presbyterian (2.1%).
So why is the attendance up when the CRC population is down?
One factor is that attendance in the Christian Reformed Church as a whole is down over the past 20 years, which in turn means that the number of college-aged CRC students in attendance at Dordt will also decline.
Another reason is that Dordt has learned over the years that if they want to expand and keep growing as an institution, they need to make sure that they are open to more than just CRC students, while still staying true to the college mission.
“As Dordt has expanded, we’ve gone out seeking Christian students, but on the other hand, other students have come looking for the kind of Christian education we provide,” said Van Essen.
He is proud that Dordt has stuck to their core beliefs after all of these years. “Our mission statement hasn’t changed.” He believes that part of what keeps Dordt thriving is that the mission statement has not changed.
Dordt College’s mission states: “As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt College equips students, alumni, and the broader community to work effectively toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life.”
Van Essen said that some people believe those in charge of admissions are “headhunters” who are only looking for numbers. However, he said that “we’re here to get students that are a match for Dordt.”
Dordt College provost Eric Forseth said, “Prospective students are interested in a Dordt College education because of the transformational emphasis we have here. Credit should go to admissions and faculty members who meet with students upon their visit because over 60% of students who attend indicate they chose Dordt because of a quality campus visit with faculty and staff members. Furthermore, these students indicate their number one reason for choosing Dordt is because of the Christian emphasis and atmosphere of the college.”
Dordt’s goal is to remain committed to a reformed perspective in every aspect of the college, including the classroom, chapel, and athletics. So while the audience that Dordt seeks may have expanded, the core beliefs and values that the college stands by have not. Dordt is looking for students who want to uphold and implement those values and beliefs in every area of their lives.
“What impresses me the most about Dordt College students is that they are so purposeful and intentional about their college experience. They aren’t just interested in getting a job. They are more interested in ‘getting a life’ and making a difference in His Kingdom,” said Forseth.
President Erik Hoekstra said, “The Reformed hallmarks of Biblical authority, cultural and creational engagement, and God’s sovereignty over all aspects of life are currently ‘on the rise’ in a wide variety of denominations beyond the CRC and also in non-denominational churches and families. Thus, students from non-CRC backgrounds are finding Dordt a great fit, and we’re seeing these students embrace living from a Reformed world-and-life view during and after graduation.”