Summary - (For the full document please click here)
While some people wonder why Atlantic Union College (AUC) restarted its academic programs, its Board of Trustees saw an opportunity to address some of the challenges the higher education industry is facing.
Atlantic Union College is the college of Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) in the northeast of the United States. It serves a constituency that is more diverse than any other union’s in the North American Division. In the Southern New England Conference alone, 47% of membership and 51% of churches are non-English (All Nations, Cape Verdean, Chinese, Ghanaian, Haitian, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish). This percentage could be higher if we looked at the union wide data. AUC offers a limited number of scholarships whose purpose is to encourage this diversity.
These members are not wealthy but are loyal to the SDA beliefs, have vibrant Adventurer and Pathfinder programs, and are faithful tithe payers. Christian education is the dream they have for their children. Many families today, especially minorities, prefer to have their children attend a college near their home for a year or two.
In the last thirty-five years, the availability of student loans has contributed to a sharp increase of college tuition and fees, reduction of students working to pay for school fees, and the reduction of family financial support to college students.
The number of low income, first-generation students going to colleges/universities in North America has recently been increasing. When these students attend private colleges, most of them graduate with a debt of around $100,000.00. This affects their ability to have strong families that support the church. Dennis O. Tongoi said that debt is to finance what fever is to the body. For this reason, Atlantic Union College reduced the tuition to $11,500.00 a year for non-dorm students. This is less than half what students pay on average at other private colleges in North America. Students who understand this message can graduate “debt free” if they are willing to work, qualify for scholarships, and get family financial support.
The College also offers short-term certificate programs (maximum one year) that lead to well-paying jobs after the graduate has passed certification exams.
AUC has been working on regaining accreditation. This takes time. Meanwhile the administration has reached out to sister institutions for articulation agreements. This allows students to transfer after one or two years and graduate from an accredited institution. Twenty years ago several SDA overseas institutions were in the same situation. They were struggling with low enrollment due to the lack of government recognition. To assist these overseas institutions, Andrews University and Southern Adventist University offered extension programs on those campuses. This support allowed them to get government recognition and build enrollment to the point where they now stand on their own. Today many of their students are children of influential people including government officials. Articulation agreements with three or four higher education institutions will give AUC time to grow while working on regaining its own accreditation.
It is well known that any new business starts small and expects to operate in the red for two to three years. Time is needed for the College to increase enrollment, change the culture of borrowing, and restore the value of working to pay for college.
Southern New England Conference has been a strong supporter of AUC’s students’ three-way scholarships and subsidy. There is no doubt that the conference and the college are all working for the best interest of our students but for some reason, we have different strategies to achieve this goal. There is a disconnect somewhere. An honest and sincere dialogue to identify the differences is yet to happen. We hope to have one soon.
Meanwhile our appeal to the conference is to continue the financial support of our efforts to provide quality and affordable Christian education in the northeast.
If there is a time Atlantic Union College is needed it is NOW.
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Atlantic Union College