In the days leading up to Atlantic Union College’s announcement that it would close, students on campus formed a petition, calling AUC a scam, demanding an open apology and their money back, and alleging that the College had misled them in regards to its articulation agreement with Andrews University.
AUC has been in operation for almost 140 years. It closed in 2011 after losing its accreditation, and re-opened in 2015 with the hope of regaining accreditation, which did not happen.
Since reopening in 2015, enrollment numbers have never topped 50, and the school offered only a limited number of bachelor degrees and certification programs. In October 2017, AUC announced that it had formed articulation agreements with both Andrews University and Southwestern Adventist University so students “may gain the general education academic credits needed for a college degree at less cost, and then transfer from AUC to complete a degree not currently offered.”1
In November, advertising appeared on AUC’s Facebook page about the partnership with Andrews University, noting that a “full transfer of credits and discounted tuition is offered.” The student petition, however, alleges that AUC students who spoke with Andrews representatives about the agreement were told no full transfer exists.
The articulation agreement is through Andrews University’s School of Distance Education and International Partnerships (formerly Griggs University). According to Alayne Thorpe, dean of the School of Distance Ed., the agreement was for automatic acceptance of only 12 courses of transfer credit. As is Andrews’ procedure when dealing with non-accredited institutions, additional credits are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, rather than the “full transfer” AUC advertised.
In response to a request for comment, Thorpe stated:
Andrews University’s message on the articulation has always been clear—we articulated 12 courses for credit. That means that we have pre-approved those courses for transfer but it does not mean that no other credit will transfer. It simply means that we will accept the articulated courses and then review all additional courses on a student-by-student basis. We have been in contact with AUC because we want to do whatever we can to help the students during this difficult time. AUC Administration is working with us to provide information we need to fairly evaluate student credentials.”
She concluded saying, “We want to provide [students] with a path to complete their education at an Adventist institution. This, after all, should be the most important thing.”
The anonymous student petition, which was posted a week ago, demands that both Atlantic Union College and the Atlantic Union Conference “publicly apologize for all the scam [sic], lies and deceit.” A deadline of two weeks is given for the apology. Additionally, the students demand that within four weeks the College:
…come up with a plan to pay back the full price it cost to attend AUC to every student who attended the school based on how long they were there, clear all debt of students, sponsor students to get free education at any Adventist school not just up to their bachelors but up until they are finished their masters degree (the least you can do after scamming us so hard), and payback the money for any education that students who already left may have already payed for.”
The students state that if their demands are not met, they will join together in a lawsuit against the school, saying that though they support Adventism, they will fight for justice, ending with a comparison to Trump University which recently settled its civil fraud trial for $25 million.
When asked for a response to the student petition, AUC President Avis Hendrickson replied with the following:
Whenever someone presents a problem to an administrator anonymously, response is difficult because each person’s situation may be different. The Atlantic Union College and Atlantic Union Conference administrators are committed to maintaining the privacy of all its students and will discuss any issues with the students directly. We encourage students with any concerns to contact the college administration so that their concerns may be addressed.
Our focus is to follow through with the vote of both the Atlantic Union Conference Executive Committee and the Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees to suspend the baccalaureate program at Atlantic Union College at the end of the current academic semester and phase out the certificate programs in a teach-out manner no later than December 2018.
The Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees, in cooperation with the Atlantic Union Conference administration, will formulate a plan to guide the students, faculty, and staff through the transition period. This plan will provide academic options and information to the students, faculty, staff, and larger Atlantic Union College family. We stand ready to help.
This was the second anonymous student petition within the last six months. The first appeared in August 2017 shortly after the Southern New England Conference voted to pull its nearly $800,000 per year subsidy from the college. The petition alleged that AUC had been lying to students and parents about the College’s financial state and ability to stay open.
The College and Conference responded to the first petition stating in part that “The most recent Atlantic Union College Audited Financial Statement indicates a healthy and sustainable financial environment for the school under the current operation…The Atlantic Union Conference administration, in addition to the college leadership, remains fully engaged in a productive outcome, continued stability, increased enrollment, and full accreditation of Atlantic Union College.”
1. Atlantic Union College Newsletter, October 30, 2017
Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
Images: screenshots of student petition and AUC Facebook post.
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