by AT News Team

The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted earlier this week to approve two bachelor's degree programs at Atlantic Union College (AUC), Katy Abel, associate commissioner for the board, told two Worcester newspapers yesterday. The approval requires that the college gain accreditation before it can award the degrees and meanwhile will make regular reports to the board, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
 
Dr. Duane Cady, interim college president who attended the meeting, told the Worcester Business Journal that AUC will seek accreditation through the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). AUC does not intend to go back to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges that voted in 2010 to withdraw accreditation due to financial problems caused by a loss of enrollment. It had been on probation with the accrediting body since 2008.
 
Adventist Today reported in 2011 that AUC entered into negotiations with Washington Adventist University to open a branch campus in South Lancaster in the former AUC facilities. In October of that year the board of WAU voted not to go ahead with the plan. Since that time, Adventist Today has also reported proposals to operate an unaccredited training center for Bible workers at AUC.
 
The Massachusetts state board has approved the development of bachelor's degrees in health science and theology, stated the Worcester Business Journal earlier today. Cady told the Telegram & Gazette that "he does not yet have a timeframe" for the development of the programs or when the college may again offer classes.
 
Colleges and universities in the United States affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church have been accredited by the regional accrediting associations starting in the 1930s. There was a considerable debate at the time among denominational leaders. Ellen White's position that physicians trained at the denomination's medical school should be eligible for state licensure and the requirement of the American Medical Association that accredited medical schools admit only students who graduated from accredited colleges led to a policy to seek regular accreditation.
 
"TRACS is recognized by both the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as a national accrediting body for Christian institutions, colleges, universities, and seminaries," according to its official web site. It was "established in 1979 to promote the welfare, interests, and development of postsecondary institutions, whose mission is characterized by a distinctly Christian purpose [and] encourages each affiliated institution to develop its own distinctives, while providing quality postsecondary education within the context of spiritual development." Most of the well-known Christian institutions are not included in its list of member schools.