By Josh Walker, Academic Dean
As I post this, Eternity Bible College is in the middle of a 5-year “virtual” site visit from our accrediting body, The Association of Biblical Higher Learning (ABHE). Our staff has been preparing for this for months –combing through files, reviewing policies, and generating reports which will then be evaluated by a team of administrators from other schools.
If you’re an educator, I don’t need to tell you how comprehensive this process is –you’re probably already experiencing flashbacks of policy-writing and site visits. If you’re not an educator, you might be under the impression that accreditation is simply a “stamp of approval” to ensure we meet some abstract institutional standards. So I thought I would briefly share what accreditation is, why Eternity chose to pursue it, why we continue to find it valuable, and finally how you can pray for us in the process.
What is Accreditation?
Stay with me… I’m going to try and get the boring stuff out of the way. Or click here to skip to the next section (no judgment).
Accreditation is simply peer accountability to a set of educational standards. Our accrediting body, ABHE, is recognized by the Department of Education and has developed a set of standards covering everything from having an appropriate mission statement to curriculum requirements to student services. These standards are regularly reviewed and revised by the members of ABHE, which are all the institutions accredited by them. This is why this is considered peer review.
In order to be accredited and to maintain it, each member school hosts a team visit periodically to assess whether the school is in compliance with the standards. This team is comprised of administrators from other member schools each representing their area of expertise (e.g. student services or academics). Prior to the team’s visit, the school performs a self-study to give their self-assessment of how well they meet the standards. When the team visits, they are evaluating how well the school has self-assessed and how well it meets the standards. The results of the self-study are then provided in a report and the school provides a response. All of this material (self-study, team report, school response) is then evaluated by the Commission on Accreditation (again a set of peers from the member institutions) and a decision is made regarding the ongoing accreditation of the institution [end boring part].
Why we do it
This might come as a surprise, especially if you know how informal and relational our staff is… but we’re 100% on board with this process.
We initially chose to pursue accreditation to help us accomplish our mission better. We know it’s easy to lie to ourselves. This is also true institutionally. Accreditation is the external assessment that exposes the ways we deceive ourselves about how well we are accomplishing our mission. While there are many difficulties associated with accreditation, we believe that this core aspect makes overcoming them worthwhile.
The reason Eternity has continued to pursue and maintain accreditation is that we have continued to find the external assessment worthwhile. There are many other reasons to pursue accreditation – access to federal and state financial aid or prestige – but we don’t find those reasons compelling. On the other hand, we do find our mission compelling. We are compelled by the reality that studying the scriptures transforms lives. We are compelled that God’s people are to know and love God and to know and love the people around them. This is the heart of our mission, and being held accountable to this mission is something we embrace.
We ask for your prayers during this time. Specifically, please pray for:
- The health of our site visit team, who each work at colleges around North America and who are dealing campus closures.
- Clear and accurate communication between all involved.
- Energy and perseverance through long days for the administrators at the school and for the team members as they sacrificially work on our behalf.
- Areas of need to be exposed so we might improve.
- Areas of success to be exposed so God might be glorified and others might learn from what He has entrusted to us.