student should be able to answer these questions before pursuing
enrollment in a Bible college:
is my motivation to consider a Bible college?
theological emphases do I want to look for?
I disciplined enough to consider a distance or online program?
program and major should I choose?
accreditation should I look for?
long will it take me?
is my motivation to consider a Bible college?" This is the most
important answer a student should know when considering a Bible
college. There are at least three different answers!
First, a student knows he is called to ministry and is desiring to build a
foundation to equip. Second, a student is desiring to learn more
about God, the Bible, and furthering knowledge to benefit himself and also
the people around him. Third, a student is interested in the first
two answers, but is also concerned with secular career development.
Determining the motivation is necessary to selecting the degree, major,
and type of school accreditation. See "Which program and major
should I choose?" further below.
theological emphases do I want to look for?"
The statement of
faith, values, or beliefs of the school are important to read. Many
schools have a good generic statement of faith, but some of their courses
lean toward a specific theological stance. Fundamental,
Holiness, and Pentacostal/Charasmatic theologies are examples of different
emphases. Even within these theological divisions,
denominations in any one of these groups also have some important
theological differences. In the group "Fundamental",
Southern Baptist, General Association of Regular Baptist, Independent
Baptist, and Evangelical Free are examples of different sub-emphases in
theology, yet they are considered "Fundamental". Even
within a denomination, there may be differences from region to region or
church to church. Some schools purposely design courses and programs with a "dogma"
approach to major controversies and theological differences. Rather
than risking the student developing a different theology than the school's
or not converting a student perspective, a school might structure a narrow
teaching that overemphasizes the school's perspective. Some schools
over-teach their differences from other groups so much that valuable
learning time is lost in other important areas.
schools believe a reasonable multi-view of
theological perspectives allows the Holy Spirit to guide the individual to
truth. This method is thought to allow each student to develop
personal convictions about specific doctrines rather than adopting someone
else's faith as head knowledge. They attempt to use curriculum resources
that include authors and speakers from different backgrounds, but have
some fundamental basics in common. They believe this is a good method because the student
also learns why opposing views were developed, so they are equipped to
better teach and defend convictions.
A helpful method to
get the answer to the theological emphasis question is to briefly research
the authors of resource books used in a school's courses, then give
the variety of author names to your pastor or other trusted
theologian to review. They should be able to quickly tell you the
emphasis or spectrum
of doctrines presented just by the names of authors. Because
man is fallible, authors will always have some areas that are in error or
that you disagree with.
I disciplined enough to consider a distance or online program?"
There are several important benefits using a distance or online program to
complete training. It can allow students to continue their current
work or situation. It can prevent the student from accumulating
years of debt. It keeps the student from relocating. The
student can often schedule weekly hours that fit his situation. In
the past, it was important to have the assurance to transfer to another
school due to relocation. Today, technology allows completion of
many degrees from the same school no matter where the student is
located. The student should be realistic about the decision to enroll in a distance
or online program. Online and distance programs require a substantial amount of self-discipline and
prioritization. It can be very easy for an individual to feel he
will be disciplined enough to prioritize school work while maintaining a
job, social life, and existing ministry responsibilities. Those who are undisciplined
often do not realize they are undisciplined! Many students require a structured,
traditional classroom method for accountability. If working off
campus, scheduled weekly school time must be legalistically
maintained. Students should ask a local authority figure in their
life to be an accountability partner to regularly check weekly goals and
progress. Students often benefit if they can find one or two
other local people to enroll at the same time to build a local
accountability and encouragement structure. Students should communicate with family and friends
the need to protect scheduled school time such as phone calls, texting,
program and major should I choose?" This depends on the
motivation to enroll in a Bible college. Because the student is
considering a Bible college to begin with, the program should include a
broad base of courses dealing with the Bible, doctrine, and Christian
living. The major will depend on the calling, interests, and gifting
of the student. It is also important to know how the diploma and
transcript will be worded. If the student is concerned about the
benefit of the degree for potential secular benefit, the following should
be considered: The degree program wording (B.S., B.A., Th.B., etc.)
can be important, although many secular positions do not require a
specific bachelor degree to qualify. Students may be able to get by
with "Bachelor degree from Schoolname College 2010-2013". Some secular positions
naturally require a specific major because of the unique job.
Ministry positions often prefer a ministry major or a theological degree
such as a Th.B. or M.Div. The school name may affect how employers
view the student. The school name can reflect the training was
religious and even denominational. Occasionally, employers will ask
if it is a degree from an accredited school, but do not specify the type
of accreditation. Some employers (often teaching positions) will specifically ask if it is
a regionally accredited school or an accreditation recognized by the Dept.
of Education. As with any school, the ability to
switch majors or programs within the school after the first year or two is
accreditation should I look for?"
Accreditation is generally
described as an outside evaluation of a school by a qualified-to-evaluate organization.
It is important to look for a school that has outside peer evaluation to
ensure quality and a standardized structure for degrees. Because
accreditations take years for a school to qualify, there are at least
three statuses of accreditation to be aware of: Applicant Status is where
the school has submitted their initial application, often with substantial
information about the school. Candidate Status is where the
application information has been thoroughly reviewed and it appears the
school may be able to meet the accrediting organization's criteria.
Fully Accredited or Accredited is where the school has supplied all
requested information, has had a site visit, and met all criteria.
Most accreditations will require regular review and site visits of the school to make sure the
quality and standards are still being met or surpassed, and all changes in
courses or programs must be first reviewed before implementation.
Bible colleges and seminaries, "which" accrediting organization
doing the accrediting is often a a question of
school cost rather than quality. Accrediting organizations that are
on the Department of Education's approved list charge very large
accrediting fees to schools compared to theological accrediting
organizations not considered by the Dept. of Education. Some Bible
colleges must use one of these accrediting organizations on the Dept. of
Education's list because they offer non-Biblical programs such as
business, public school teaching, and other liberal arts programs.
These schools are willing to pay much higher accreditation fees to have a
Dept. of Education recognized accreditation and pass the cost onto
students, because it allows student participation in Federal grants and
loans (FAFSA), plus tax benefits such as the Hope Credit and Lifetime Learning
Credit for income tax. So... students may need a grant, loan, and
tax benefit just to pay higher tuition that allows participation in
grants, loans, and tax benefits? Did you get that? Because
schools pay more for accreditation to have access to financial aid, more
students actually need financial aid because the school's tuition is
higher. This sounds like a reform waiting to happen!
Unfortunately, many students must use repayable Perkins and Stafford
loans, because the grant and tax benefits are not enough to cover the
increased tuition to cover higher accreditation costs. The Dept. of
Education recognized accreditation organizations are a vicious cycle
created after the G.I. Bill, so the Federal Government could make sure its
money given to veterans' education was being spent at reputable
schools. Unfortunately, these original accrediting organizations
have grown their financial overhead so large they must charge schools to
where it is a major percentage of tuition.
bottom line: If you are pursuing a Bible, Ministry, or Theological
degree, it is important to consider an accredited school that is being
thoroughly reviewed by at least one outside organization.
Accountability is always a good structure. It is beneficial to make
sure the accrediting organization accredits a significant number of
schools. It is normally required that an accredited school will
receive transfer credits from other member schools. This gives a
student other options in case the student wishes to change schools. The
accrediting organization does NOT need to be one recognized by the Dept.
of Education. The government's approval of religious schools is not
required, nor constitutional to be required. Most ministry positions
do not require a Dept. of Education approved accreditation. However,
degrees without a Dept. of Education approved accreditation may have less
graduate schools (seminaries) from which to choose. Due to advances
in technology for distance learning, this is not as big of issue as it
once was. Students no longer have geographical limitations when choosing a
seminary. There are two major reasons to consider a Dept. of Education
recognized accredited Bible college: 1. Many teaching positions at Bible
colleges and seminaries may also require a Dept. of Education approved
accreditation to keep their Dept. of Education approved
accreditation. 2. If you want to enroll in a Bible college and will
NOT be pursuing a Bible, Ministry, or Theological major, then a higher
cost Dept. of Education approved accredited school is normally the way to
go. Degrees for public school teaching (liberal arts), sciences, and
other non-theological areas are often forced to have a Dept. of Education
approved accreditation for credentialing, transfer, and graduate school
do Bible colleges use a Dept. of Education approved accreditation?"
There are several reasons. Most campus-based Bible colleges, which
cost significantly more than public colleges, cannot survive without
offering financial aid. Campus-based Bible colleges must charge
students a significant amount, often more than a student's
resources. Some Bible colleges also offer liberal arts and other
non-theological degrees. The students pursuing a theological degree
must suffer from higher tuition, because a Dept. of Education approved
accreditation is required for other degree programs offered at that
do Bible colleges NOT use a Dept. of Education approved
accreditation?" Many schools desire to
keep tuition so low that financial aid is not required, and the student is
not encumbered with debt later while in ministry. Some
believe the government has no right to approve directly or indirectly the
training structure of religious convictions. They also feel the
government is not equipped to properly evaluate an area where it has no
expertise. A plumber would not accredit an electrician, and
vice-versa. These schools often pursue an accreditation that
specializes in faith-based training that is not influenced by the
Long Will It Take Me?" This may depend on whether a
school is accredited or not. Beware of schools that say you can
graduate in a shorter time than normal! This is one of the signs the
school may not have a good accreditation. Most accreditations
require each credit or unit to involve at least fifteen hours of classroom
involvement. That means a three credit course will have forty-five
hours of classroom involvement. The length to completion may vary on
whether it is a campus-based or distance/online structure.
campus-based structures with summer and holiday breaks will lock you into
two years for an Associate degree and four years for a Bachelor
degree. Because many accredited distance and online programs allow
year-round study, students can theoretically graduate with a bachelor
degree in three years. Some distance programs are lock-stepped and
do not allow individualized scheduling. These type of structures
will take the same time as campus-based.
the distance program is individualized, students may either be able to
complete the program in shorter or longer periods. For some, being able to
take longer is good because they may not have as much time per week to
allocate toward school. Many schools place a reasonable time limit
to complete a course once it is begun to discourage spreading the course
out too long and losing the context. Beware of schools advertising
"2-3 years to get a bachelor degree". It might be possible
for a gifted and disciplined student, but not for the typical student,
especially one that has a part-time job, family, or other
responsibilities. Individualized programs do allow students
with more time to finish faster because they are not held back by a
group's progress or school breaks and holidays. An individualized
program is normally the most efficient structure because it allows the
student to work at his ability. In areas the student understands, he
can quickly proceed. If a student is struggling in an area, an
individualized structure allows the student to take more time to master
that area without feeling pressured by the group's progress.
Many distance programs require a substantial amount of reading. A
person's reading comprehension speed should be taken into account for time
bottom line: You should evaluate the factors of campus-based versus
distance/online. You should evaluate the distance program for
lock-stepped versus individualized. You should realistically
evaluate your allocated time for school, and whether you will work
year-round. You should also evaluate your reading comprehension and