Massachusetts Department of Higher Education Raises Concerns Over Atlantic Union College Closure
26 September 2018 | Concerns have been raised by state regulators in regards to how Adventist-owned Atlantic Union College was shut down over the last year. AUC officially ended academic programs last month.
Katy Abel, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts higher education department, said that AUC never concluded arrangements for an official closing plan with the state and that, as leadership has now disbanded, the work on the plan has essentially terminated.
Abel said that members of her department were, “concerned about the lack of clear communication with students about the closure, and the fact that AUC did not seem to understand the Board of Higher Education’s statutory authority regarding institutional closures in general.”
The Telegram reported that it was not clear what repercussions the institution would face over the closure procedures.
A Change.org petition said to be posted by AUC students in February critiqued the school over the handling of the impending closure and demanded that students be reimbursed for their tuition costs. The petition also threatened legal action.
In addition, a complaint about AUC scamming students was lodged with the state’s higher education department.
After the announcement that Atlantic Union College was closing for the second time, administrators hinted that the South Lancaster, Massachusetts-based Adventist institution would explore ways to continue offering higher education. The details regarding this potential path forward have not been spelled out.
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 (Health Sciences 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 enrolled in its final semester, AUC had been supported by constituent conferences of the Atlantic Union of the Adventist denomination. 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.
A March, 2018 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. In addition, the school said that its pending request with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to extend their conditional approval to operate would 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.