14 March 2018 | Immediately on the heels of last month’s announcement that Atlantic Union College was closing for the second time, administrators have hinted that the South Lancaster, Massachusetts-based Adventist institution will explore ways to continue offering higher education.

Due to financial troubles and lack of accreditation, AUC had announced that it would suspend its baccalaureate program by the end of this semester and would terminate its certificate programs by December. However, according to the Sentinel & Enterprise, a newsletter sent from the institution to students last week said that there was “hope” and that the school’s “Feasibility Study Committee is scheduled to meet in early March to confer on a model of delivering higher education in the Atlantic Union that will also serve the greater system of higher education in the Seventh-day Adventist educational ministry.” AUC has not explained what is meant by this new “model of delivering higher education.”

The institution initially closed in 2011 due to severe financial difficulties and the loss of accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. It reopened in 2015 without accreditation. As it only offered two bachelor degrees (Religion and Theology) and a handful of professional certificates, AUC found it difficult to recruit students. Low enrollment was not helped by the school’s unaccredited status which meant that students were unable to access financial aid to study at AUC.

With only about 50 students currently enrolled, AUC has been supported by constituent conferences of the Atlantic Union. This support started to erode in April 2017 when the Southern New England Conference voted to discontinue funding to the school. More recently, Greater New York Conference and the Bermuda Conference also reduced or ended funding for AUC putting an incredible strain on the institution.

Last week’s newsletter stated that the school’s board of trustees had voted to stop the accreditation process with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The school’s pending request with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to extend their conditional approval to operate will also be withdrawn.

Atlantic Union college was first established in 1882 as a preparatory school. It became a degree-granting college in 1922. At its enrollment peak, the institution had over 700 students.

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