A recent study completed by the Council for Christian Colleges and University found professionals produced by faith-based institutions are responsible for more than $60 billion in total economic output annually.
Luckily for Waxahachie and Ellis County, one of those places of higher education — Southwestern Assemblies of God University — has been a part of the Waxahachie community since the doors opened on the 70-acre campus in 1943.
The institution has produced graduates who work in a variety of fields to build a strong and educated workforce, which is a crucial factor in the continued growth of any community.
One-hundred forty-two colleges or universities fall under the Council for Christian Colleges and University (CCCU) umbrella. The CCCU study found those institutions support 340,000 full-time equivalent jobs and produce $18 billion in earnings.
In turn, this generates $10 billion in federal tax revenue annually.
“Southwestern Assemblies of God University is widely known for producing ministers and teachers, but the university offers a wide range of degrees focused on service to the community,” SAGU Public Relations Manager Andrew Hurst said. “Criminal justice receives a lot of student interest. SAGU also offers degrees in counseling, psychology, social work and most recently, health science. However, one of the largest academic areas of the university is in Business.”
Hunt further explained the university set a new enrollment record in Fall 2017 with 2,176 students. Many of these students work for local business, buy local products and serve the community through volunteerism or internships.
According to the CCCU study, for every $1 in federal grant money a student receives a CCCU institution provides $5 in aid to that student. It also shows that for every $1 in federal grant money a student gets a CCCU institution generate more than $20 in federal tax revenue through its operations, capital investment, and additional alumni earning power. Annually students received about $470 million in federal aid. After being matched by a university, these funds translates to $9.7 billion in federal tax revenue.
Hurst stated that SAGU continues to be focused on service and adding degrees that benefit the community at large. The school strives to provide students with a variety of options.
“The school recently partnered with LeTourneau University to introduce an Associates in Health Science at SAGU that feeds into a nursing degree at LeTourneau,” Hurst said. “SAGU also launched a new Alternative Teacher Certification program to help prepare more teachers for Texas classrooms.”
The study showed CCCU students are in fields that may not maximize earning but deliver social benefits. These career fields include business and finance at 22.4 percent, education and training at 14.3 percent, and human services at 12.7 percent. It also showed that CCCU alumni have a higher repayment rate at 77.6 percent and lower default rate at 6.3 percent then at other peer institutions.
In the $60 billion annual impact from Christian colleges and universities make annually to communities $25.6 billion is generated from operations and capital investments. This investment in new facilities is underway at SAGU. In 2012 the university broke ground on the $21 million Dr. John and Diana Hagee Communications Center. The 80,000 square foot building has amenities that include an auditorium, a black box theater, television, film, and recording studios. The center also serves Ellis County and the surrounding areas as an upscale performing arts center.
The economic aspects of the CCCU study only show part of the impact Christian colleges and universities have on a community. It notes 35.2 percent of CCCU students compared to 25.7 percent of all college students participate in community service activities. This percentage translates into 5.4 million hours total or 38 hours of community service work per CCCU student.
Ryan McElhany, SAGU marketing director, stated the CCCU report is a reflection of what is happening on campus.
“The CCCU report mentions that students tend to be drawn toward fields that deliver social benefits. We see that reflected in the programs that many SAGU students choose. In addition to ministry, we have a large number of Counseling, Criminal Justice, and Education students. McElhany said. “Many SAGU alumni remain in the area after graduation to start careers and families. That love of Waxahachie has a clear benefit.”
Southwestern alumna Dr. Karla Evans serves as the clinical training director for the doctoral psychology internship program in Fort Worth. Evans works to provide treatment and care for prison inmates struggling with mental illnesses. She noted her faith and education has made her stronger in her profession each day.
“I believe I am able to utilize my faith every day. It may not be from quoting scripture or praying with my clients or co-workers but just by trying to live a life Christ has called us to do,” Evans said. “Sometimes people have the misconception that if we are not in pulpit ministry, we aren’t ministering for God. But we absolutely have an opportunity to work with people and show Jesus in the darkest situations; I always feel like my faith helps create that sense of optimism and hope in the secular workplace.”
Fellow alumna Michelle Rice shared Evans thoughts about the impact of service have on a community as a whole. Rice serves as the principal of Janet Brenner Hoover Elementary School in Houston.
“I always knew that loving all people is important, but it was emphasized more there (SAGU)," Rice says. "I don’t know if I would have gone to a state school if that would have been emphasized as much. I think those values are what helped shape me to be where I am at today.”