Three Adventist Colleges Weigh
Alliance, Some Joint Operations
Idea is to find efficiencies, strengthen Adventist education (Posted August 27, 2013)
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor
Three Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities – Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tenn.; Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas; and Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska – are planning a collaborative arrangement to save money and strengthen Adventist education, officials say. The venture, called the Adventist Educational Alliance, will begin cooperative moves this fall, they added.
“We believe we can achieve some efficiencies that in turn will help us keep the cost of tuition from rising as rapidly,” said John Wagner, Union College president. “We sincerely believe that; [but] we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Gordon Bietz, Southern Adventist University president, noted the rapid-fire changes the higher education world has endured in the past few years, including the establishment of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, available for free from leading universities around the world. These MOOCs do not usually, in and of themselves, lead to a degree, but their availability is changing the landscape, he said.
“We understand that there is a significant change in higher education, because of the establishment of MOOCs, and proprietary, for-profit schools that are using the online campus, and we want to make sure that we’re not left behind in the changing world of higher education,” Bietz explained.
At present the consortium effort is among the three schools; other North American Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities may join, Bietz said. The question of whether Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, will participate is a bit more complicated, he noted, since those two schools are institutions owned by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Among the steps contemplated is using one recruiter to represent the three schools when visiting Adventist academy college fairs, along with finding a way to merge some “back office” administrative functions. Both would be seen as cost-saving measures, and Bietz said Southern is aligning its school year calendar with the other two schools in order to allow students to take online and other courses from the related institutions where desirable. Some of the cost savings, he added, would help keep tuition costs low at the three schools.
Together, the three institutions serve roughly 15 percent of the Adventist college and university population in North America, which was about 28,300 last year. Of that number, nearly 2,700 were at Southern Adventist University, while Union College enrolled nearly 800 and Southwestern Adventist University entrolled nearly 700. Registration is currently underway at all three schools and 2013 numbers are not yet available.
Bietz emphasized that providing a solid financial base for the institutions is a priority.
“We’re not seeking to lose institutional identity, but simply build a stable financial base for each institution, enrich our curriculums, and have a better experience for our students in a changing world of higher education,” he said.
Larry Blackmer, education vice president for the North American Division, voiced his approval of the move.
"The future of Adventist higher education lies in finding ways to collaborate and work together to enhance the instructional value to students and to facilitate the mission-driven focus of Adventist education," Blackmer said in comments via e-mail. "The alliance that is being developed and fostered by these three colleges and universities is exciting and at the same time challenging. Anytime change is in the wind, it is always unsettling. These administrations need to be supported and encouraged to build the best higher educational system we can for our young people."