Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why We Do Not Seek Government Accreditation

Recent developments in higher education accreditation are demonstrating anew why Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, by design, has not sought accreditation by agencies recognized by the federal government. We are aware that our position hampers the ability of some students to obtain certain forms of financial aid which might otherwise be available. Some other possible sources of direct funding for our school are also off the table because of this.

But we know full well that strings are always attached when an institution turns to the government for approval of its programs or offers opportunities to students for government aid. A new case in point (not atypical) involves Gordon College, a Massachusetts Christian college founded in 1889 and currently accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). This regional group is recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education and the private Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as an accrediting agency.

Gordon College was recently notified by NEASC that it must review its code of conduct to ensure that does not discriminate in violation of NEASC diversity standards. At issue is the college's long-standing "life and conduct statement" which prohibits students from engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage or in homosexual practices.

The agency has said it does not intend to immediately withdraw its accreditation, but it has noted that NEASC accreditation controls the flow of federal dollars to the college.

"Scrutiny of campus worldviews and attitudes toward the LGBTQ community escalated fairly recently after Gordon College president D. Michael Lindsay signed a letter along with other academic and religious leaders asking for a religious exemption from President Barack Obama’s executive order that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation," according to one report. (LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer.)

"According to a joint NEASC-Gordon College statement, the association’s higher education commission met last week and 'considered whether Gordon College’s traditional inclusion of "homosexual practice" as a forbidden activity' is in violation of the commission’s accreditation standards. It states that the review will be conducted 'to ensure that the College’s policies and procedures are non-discriminatory,'" the report said.

Greenville Seminary is accredited by the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries, an agency it helped form several years ago. ARTS is not recognized by the federal government as an accrediting agency, although it is seeking recognition by CHEA, the private coalition of accrediting agencies.

To assure students and the public of the quality of its educational programs, GPTS is reviewed periodically by ARTS and by representatives of church bodies which have entered into formal accountability agreements with the seminary. For more information on this subject, see here.

"In order to guarantee complete freedom for Greenville Seminary to operate under the Lord of the church, without subjection to outside influences, the Seminary does not plan to apply for accreditation with any of the regional or national agencies. The Seminary is committed to maintaining academic standards equal to or higher than those set by accrediting agencies," according to the GPTS web site and catalog.