Wyoming Catholic College has rejected $1 million in federal student aid programs to keep its Catholic identity, rejecting strings tied to the funding regarding birth control, same-sex marriage, and gender issues–requirements that are not in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
As The New York Times reports, the fairly new college has joined a small group of other faith-based colleges in electing to forgo the federal funding for students that binds the institutions to restrictive federal regulations.
Approximately 80 percent of the college’s 120 students receive some form of financial aid toward their annual tuition of about $28,000, leaving a loss of $650,000 in loans and $250,000 in Pell grants per year for student assistance with the rejection of the federal aid.
Following an analysis of the benefits and costs of participating in the federal student aid programs, the college directors decided the increasing onerous regulations of the federal government created a negative impact on the faith life of their school.
When officials discussed with students and parents the financial burdens of rejecting federal funds, asking if such an action would be worth the cost, they said overwhelmingly the response was “yes.”
At the end of February, the college’s board of directors unanimously voted that it would not participate in federal student loan and grant programs.
“By abstaining from federal funding programs,” said college President Kevin Roberts on the school’s website, “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.”
Andrew Emrich, chairman of the board of directors of the college, said:
Our decision is a prudential one. While respecting that some of our peer institutions have reached a different conclusion on this issue, what is different in our case is timing: at the very point we were grappling with this question, pivotal legal decisions, executive orders, and administrative interpretations were all pointing to some near-term (and perhaps long-term) challenges for institutions of faith. As sound a decision as this is, we lament the current political circumstances that preclude Wyoming Catholic College from participating in such programs.
Wyoming Catholic College, which first began enrolling students in 2007, is among those institutions of higher learning included in the Cardinal Newman Society Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.
“The Newman Guide recommends Catholic colleges and universities because of their commitment to a faithful Catholic education,” states the Newman Society.
The Times reports the college’s leaders acknowledge the rejection of federal loans for students is a loss, but the gain is that government cannot threaten their religious freedom by telling them what they can and cannot do.
“It allows us to practice our Catholic faith without qualifying it,” said Roberts. “It’s clear that this administration does not care about Catholic teaching.”
Similarly, referencing the Hobby Lobby case, board member Richard W. St. Pierre, said, “My concern was about the overreach of this administration. We may find ourselves in a similar position if you take federal money and don’t comply with an executive order.”
“We really didn’t want the federal government meddling in our lives here,” board member David S. Kellogg also said. “The federal government hands you money and then threatens to withdraw that money if you don’t do what they want.”
Last week, in fact, the ACLU announced that it would be filing a lawsuit that hopes to order the federal government to release information about how groups–such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops–are awarded government funding contracts to assist illegal unaccompanied minors, yet refuse to allow the minors access to contraception and abortion.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of recent proposed federal regulations that require groups that receive federal contracting funds to assist with care for illegal minors to ensure they are provided with access to contraception and abortion. In response, however, the USCCB said such a requirement would violate religious freedom since contraception and abortion are against the teachings of the Catholic Church.
As the largest resettlement agency in the United States, the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) last year showed a total budget of approximately $71 million, of which nearly $66 million–or about 93 percent–has come from federal grants and contracts.
Though Wyoming Catholic College will not be accepting federal aid, it will continue to provide competitive merit-based scholarships, student loans, and grants to students in need via its new St. Thomas More Fund.