About Colleges and Universities


The Lutheran Reformation included a reform of society and education as well as the church. Lutheran reformers insisted that schools be established and that education for all, not just aristocratic elites, was an implication of the gospel. This impulse continues to guide Lutheran colleges and universities in the ELCA.

All colleges and universities founded by the churches that merged to form the ELCA were received into this church. Although originally established by immigrant Lutherans to serve their own communities, ELCA colleges and universities now serve Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike, in the spirit of the Lutheran Reformation. They honor their immigrant origins with their emphasis on serving first-generation college students.

The 26 colleges and universities of the ELCA were founded between 1832 (Gettysburg College) and 1959 (California Lutheran University). They are organized into an association called the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities (NECU). The only college related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada ― Luther College in Regina, Saskatchewan ― is also a member of NECU.

College students.


The cost of college can be daunting, but admissions counselors and financial aid advisers at ELCA colleges and universities will help you afford the school that fits you the best. The true cost of attending an ELCA school is typically no more — and often less — than the cost of attending most public colleges and universities because completing a degree in the normal length of time can be difficult or impossible at public institutions. Once enrolled in an ELCA college or university, you will discover why graduates before you have consistently rated their educational experiences as high or higher than have Lutheran alums of public colleges and universities.

Admission and financial aid are administered directly by each college or university, based primarily on financial need. The ELCA’s churchwide organization offers no general scholarship program or financial aid. Contact a financial aid counselor at any school for more information.


Through 2010, oversight of churchwide ministries in higher education was managed by the staff of various divisions or program units inside the ELCA’s churchwide organization. Between 2011 and 2015, however, the churchwide organization explored restructuring its work in higher education by bringing presidents of ELCA colleges and universities directly into churchwide leadership. To achieve this restructuring, the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities was organized.

NECU is an unincorporated collaboration, with the churchwide organization and ELCA colleges and universities as its members. The program director for colleges and universities in the churchwide organization’s Christian Community and Leadership Home Area fulfills the responsibilities of that office by serving as executive director of NECU. The executive director and the presidents of NECU institutions constitute the board of directors of the association. Most responsibility is lodged with an executive committee composed of seven presidents and the executive director.

The purpose of NECU is to direct churchwide ministries in higher education. Its guiding purposes are set forth in the 2015 document “Shared Identity and Shared Work: A Proposal to Restructure the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities.”


“ELCA colleges and universities are gems of this church. Open to Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike, ELCA colleges and universities educate young adults in body, mind, and spirit to find their vocation and purpose in life, as well as a career. The ELCA is proud of the leadership by alumni of our colleges and universities in the church, our nation, and around the globe.”
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, ELCA
Presiding Bishop Eaton


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