What Today's Accreditation Announcement Means
Today Bob Jones University announced that they will seek SACS Accreditation (a regional accreditor). First lets break down the announcement and from there talk about what all this means.
According to SACSCOC, revisions to its Principles of Accreditation in 2001 “introduced significant changes in its approach to accreditation.” Student learning and quality of instruction within the framework of an institution’s mission, goals, and ability to assess and plan became the focus of accreditation. Moreover, the most recent Reaffirmation of the Higher Education Act in 2008 calls on accreditors to “consistently apply and enforce standards that respect the stated mission of the institution, including religious mission.”
This is exactly what we've pointed out here ages ago. I would like documentation about where this quote comes from, a link to a source. It would be nice to put it into context. Given that I uncovered this exact same language found in a completely different regional accreditor I have my doubts that it was all that earth shattering in 2001. Either way one still wonders if this were the case in 2001 why did they wait a decade to act on it, and why go through TRACS accreditation twice if SACS was already in a place to accommodate their religion? Why not just skip straight to the actual accreditation?
BJU believes these recent changes significantly address past concerns we’ve held about regional accreditation.
Recent? 10 years is recent? But really I doubt that this actually does address your past concerns. Let's look at them. In Bob Jones III's article entitled Higher Ground he argued that the issue of accreditation (Christian or non) was a matter of biblical principle.
I also know that persuading some people to accept what I believe is the Biblical perspective on this subject is like trying to push a bowling ball through a garden hose. It is a tough thing to do; but the Lord helping me, I am glad to do it anyway. Bob Jones University has been doing this for sixty-four years. My grandfather did it; my father did it; and the staff here is constantly doing it. I am not ashamed to be doing it; I am not apologizing for doing it, but it is not an easy task. I am driven by the desire to see the Bible become the basis for Christians’ conclusions on this matter.
So unless SACS suddenly became something other than a secular accreditation agency I'm not exactly sure what changed. Did the Bible change? Did God change? Did Jesus change? What changed? I'm genuinely perplexed here. Let's look at another example. In 1998 BJU had an article on their webpage entitled, Should Parents Be Concerned About Accreditation. There BJU argued the following:
Yes, you as a parent should be concerned about the accreditation of the Christian college your child plans to attend. Has the institution surrendered itself into the hands of unsaved men and women who will attempt to dictate the manner in which its program is to be carried out? Bob Jones University can justly lay claim to what other educators have termed it, "The World's Most Unusual University.
Some think we should have a Christian organization to police the educational standards and policies of Christian schools. Dr. Bob Jones III, in FAITH for the Family says, "A cursory knowledge of church history will reveal that . . . such efforts result in religious totalitarianism in the religious hierarchy of control which is intolerable to any school owing its conscience to the Lord Jesus Christ.
So what changed? I'm really asking here. SACS is still secular and TRACS is still a Christian organization that even a "cursory knowledge" of history would tell us leads to oppression. Was this ever about the Bible? And yes I'm genuinely asking. Bob Jones III I'd love to interview you and ask you these questions.
How about another example (yes there are more). After the Higher Ground article there was a part 2 where Bob Jones III gave scriptural evidence to support *no* accreditation including the Exodus 23 Principle. In order for this concern to be addressed we'd have to take Exodus 23 right out of the Bible.
But wait there is more. Bob Jones III wrote another article entitled Educational Accreditation: Survival or Sellout? where he argues the following. With regards to Christian schools who cave and get regional accreditation:
Unsaved and unscrupulous men will kill, cheat, lie, steal, manipulate, and accommodate in order to survive. To what extremes will Christian leaders go in order to keep their Christian colleges alive? The answer to that question depends on what these leaders think about accreditation
we are told today that some kind of accreditation is a must if the state or educational institutions are to accept our colleges as viable educational entities. To those who believe that the school must survive at all costs, accreditation is no problem. To those who believe that it is better to close a school rather than to violate a scriptural principle, accreditation is intolerable.
It is relatively easy for most Christians who believe the biblical command "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (II Corinthians 6:14) to understand that it is impossible for a school to obey the Lord and be a member of a regional accrediting association.
This kind of "fellowship" between righteousness and unrighteousness, this "concord" between Christ and Belial, is clearly displeasing to the Lord and is one of the most basic and easily understood principles of Scripture.
Yet there are Christian colleges today setting this principle aside with impunity because they believe they cannot survive in the educational marketplace without it. That sort of pragmatism in the household of faith is one of the major curses of our age, but it is common. If a work of God cannot survive by practicing the precepts of Scripture, then it ought to close. It is better to close in defense of Truth than to remain open in compromise of Scripture.
The educational humanists blaspheme God, rob Him of His creative glory, and seek to build a kingdom of man where God is not welcome. They are our enemies, not our friends. We are as wrong calling upon them to accredit us--and that means put their stamp of approval upon us
And (yes when it rains it pours)
The net effect of it all makes the Christian college serve today's Philistines and their gods, just as David so unwisely became the servant of Philistia. Thank the Lord he left, but I have yet to see a Christian college voluntarily leave the bondage of accreditation.
And, Finally! (thought I could have picked more)
For the spiritual good of our Christian young people, Christian colleges must remain autonomous and free of control by an educational hierarchy, ecclesiastical or secular.
So did that terse statement from SACS really address all of the "past concerns" BJU has had with regional accreditation? Only if the Bible changed or BJU's understanding of it changed.
Now back to the announcement.
The decision by the Board of Trustees marks the beginning of a multi-year process to continue investigating the application process and, as appropriate, preparing an application for membership with SACSCOC.
Which is to say this processes will likely take up to or close to a decade. This is one of the reasons BJU renewed its accreditation through TRACS. They had to or risk several years without accreditation. This is a good point to keep in mind as well. The announcement is meaningless on its own. Seeking SACS accreditation doesn't change anything cataloged on this site. It won't help you get into grad school, and it won't get you any credits transferred. This announcement doesn't do anything on its own. It won't help unless they make the followup announcement that says they have SACS accreditation; until that time it is pretty meaningless.
Currently, Bob Jones University is a member of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), and we appreciate the value that our TRACS accreditation provides for the University and our graduates.
Which is to say that it doesn't add much.
TRACS and about a dozen other agencies including the regional associations are recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as institutional accrediting associations. In addition to these institutional accreditors, USDE recognizes about 50 national accreditors that offer specialized or programmatic accreditation.
It is very, very, interesting to me that they decided to include this final paragraph. They've been mentioning this a lot recently. We've covered this already and pointed out that it is utterly and totally meaningless. But putting it here within this context is a non sequitur. You are making an announcement about regional accreditation, about SACS not TRACS. The fact that you feel the need to include this is an outright admission that you know there are *major* problems with TRACS accreditation. You know how an announcement like this looks and sounds to current students/parents and potential students/parents. You know that suddenly questions are going to come in like, "I thought TRACS was good enough?" Or, "Should I be concerned about TRACS?" So you make a feeble attempt to placate once again by using an old and already debunked claim about the USDE. So for clarity sake, YES the USDE does recognize TRACS accreditation, but this DOES NOT help you one bit if a school is denying your grad application or refusing your credits due to accreditation. The ONLY advantage this facts gives you is with federal funding [the end].
With all this said I am cautiously optimistic. An announcement is meaningless, but clearly our work here has made an impact and clearly this is a step in the right direction. It means BJU (whether Bob Jones III has or not) has realized that all of the reasons they gave for not having regional accreditation don't hold water. This is encouraging and a step in the right direction. If they get regional accreditation this will be a major step forward.
However, our work here is far from done. As I said an announcement is meaningless. The processes of getting regional accreditation is far from assured, and it will take years. In the mean time every current student is virtual assured to graduate without a regionally accredited degree, and can and will face the same problems outlined on this website. We also cannot ignore the past. We cannot ignore the past concerns and how BJU spiritualized their choice to not get accreditation. We cannot ignore all the people that have been hurt, and continue to get hurt, because of BJU's failure to attain the proper accreditation. With this announcement now is the time to move forward, now is the time to press on with the petition. BJU owes us all an apology for playing a gamble with our futures. Please show your support on Facebook and help spread the word.