The Cost of Philosophy (in Illinois)

Since nothing else of note is going on today…

Earlier I looked at the availability of biblical studies at colleges and universities in Illinois. 31 of the 62 schools I surveyed offered courses in biblical studies as part of a religion or theology department. However, since these 31 schools are often smaller, private schools, only 32% of students in Illinois are in a position to actually take a course in biblical studies.

Today I want to compare these results with another field: Philosophy. This subject would probably be a better point of comparison for theology proper, but still a fair point of comparison with biblical studies, also in the humanities.

Here is what I found:


  Philosophy (Bible)
Schools offering philosophy courses 60 (96.8%) 31 (50%)
Percent of students at these schools 99.03% 32.30%
Schools offering philosophy majors 40 (64.5%) N/A
Percent of students at these schools 44.07% N/A
Ave. cost/school with philosophy courses $23,482.41 $30,130.91
Ave. cost/school without philosophy courses $24,620.00 $16,907.30
Ave. cost/student at schools with phil. $13,945.81 $25,470.70
Ave. cost/student at schools without phil. $31,651.91 $8,985.91

What this means:

  • All but two schools offer at least a course in philosophy, and almost 2/3 offer a philosophy major.
  • Since those two schools are rather small (less than 6,000 undergrads combined), over 99% of students in Illinois can take a philosophy course. However, since schools offering philosophy majors also tend to be on the small end, only 44% of students can major in philosophy.
  • Schools that offer philosophy courses are actually less expensive than schools that don’t, although the difference is not significant. The same goes for average cost per student, where avoiding philosophy is almost $18,000 more expensive! Cost is simply not a barrier to studying philosophy in the way that it is for biblical studies and theology.

Philosophy as a field has its own issues, and apparently they have been moving toward more non-tenure track positions for a while now. But these positions are still full-time, and at any rate more students have access to philosophy, whether it is historical philosophy, logic, or what have you.

While students may still gripe about taking a philosophy course if they are not interested, it is much less likely that people will question whether a college/university should offer these courses. Although the Bible influences contemporary thought to a similar if not greater extent than ancient and pre-modern philosophies, there is an uncritical assumption that the theological, ethical, and philosophical ideas of, say, Aristotle are more relevant to students than the theological, ethical, and philosophical ideas of Isaiah, or John, or Augustine, or Thomas Aquinas. If biblical scholars and theologians are not willing to question that assumption, then they participate in their own marginalization.


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