Wyo. Catholic College Latest to Abstain From Federal Student Loan Program

By Barbara Hollingsworth | April 16, 2015 | 3:04 PM EDT


(Wyoming Catholic College)

(CNSNews.com) – Wyoming Catholic College has joined a handful of institutions of higher learning that refuse to participate in federal student loan and grant programs because of “burdensome regulatory requirements [that] are clearly troubling for faith-based institutions.”

“By abstaining from federal funding programs, we will safeguard our mission from unwarranted federal involvement—an involvement increasingly at odds with our Catholic beliefs, the content of our curriculum, and our institutional practices,” college president Kevin Roberts said in February after the school’s board of directors voted unanimously to reject federal funding.

“Our decision is a prudential one,” said board chairman Andrew Emrich, adding that “pivotal legal decisions, executive orders, and administrative interpretations were all pointing to some near-term (and perhaps long-term) challenges for institutions of faith.”

“We really didn’t want the federal government meddling in our lives here,” board member David Kellogg told The New York Times. “The federal  government hands you money and then threatens to withdraw that money if you don’t do what they want.”

It costs $28,150 a year to attend the small four-year liberal arts college in Lander, Wyoming, which has a great books/great outdoors curriculum, and requires students to participate in a three-week backpacking trip and turn in their cell phones and computers while on campus. The college set up a private loan program to help current and future students who need financial aid.

“There’s a real concern that eventually strings will be attached to student aid, and they don’t want to be put in that position,” explained Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which recommends the small Catholic college to prospective students and their families.

Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society. (Cardinal Newman Society)

“They want to retain their Catholic identity despite increasing efforts by the Obama administration and the Left to force their social agenda, which is rooted in non-discrimination law.

"If those laws can be applied in the same way as Title IX, any institution that participates in the student loan program will be forced to comply with their social engineering,” such as providing benefits to same-sex couples, allowing transgender students access to bathrooms reserved for the opposite biological sex or even altering the content of their instruction.

“There’s a grave danger that this is the direction we’re headed,” Reilly added, noting that intrusion into college curriculums has already begun.

“We’ve had a situation with Franciscan University of Steubenville [Ohio] where an accreditor for the psychology program stepped in and complained about a discussion of different forms of [sexual] deviancy. So it will likely come through the accreditation process first,” he told CNSNews.com.

“It’s very difficult for larger institutions that have used the federal money to expand their campus facilities to not participate in the student aid program because they’re competing against institutions that do participate,” he pointed out. “But Wyoming Catholic College is new and renting its current space, so they can keep costs as low as possible.”

Several Supreme Court cases involving government funding and religious freedom during the 1960s and ‘70s prompted a number of prominent Catholic colleges and universities, such as Fordham and Georgetown, to “take their crucifixes down” and transfer ownership from religious orders to lay boards of trustees. “It turned out that the worst-case scenarios did not materialize, but they secularized anyway,” Reilly said.

“Catholic institutions have generally been very wary of taking federal money, but grants or student loans were considered different because the money supposedly went to the individual student, not directly to the institution. However, Title IX ended that illusion,” he told CNSNews.com.

“It’s clear that the federal government can, through non-discrimination laws, impose nearly anything it wants. That hasn’t happened yet, but for schools with a strong Catholic identity like Wyoming Catholic College who were considering participating in the student loan program, it’s a bad time to get in.”

Christendom College in Virginia, Hillsdale College in Michigan, and Grove City College in Pennsylvania also do not participate in federal student loan programs.

“The College’s decision has proven prophetic given the federal government’s current assault on religious freedom and its expanding use of funding conditions to promote policy preferences,” Christendom’s website states. “The federal government takeover of the student loan industry as part of the recent health-care reform is a stark warning that the government is seeking broader control of higher education.”

Related: Chalk Up Another Setback for Religious Freedom Thanks to Obamacare

Related: Federal Student Loan Debt Tops $800 Billion

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