Atlantic Union College Students Threaten Lawsuit; AUC and Andrews University Respond

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

Images: screenshots of student petition and AUC Facebook post.

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If Andrews is right, and they very likely are (I’ll assume they know their own policies…), then the advertisement shown in this post that indicated all credits would transfer is a blatant lie, and a lie that would have been at the center of any student’s decision to attend AUC.

AUC should do the right thing and summarily refund all the tuition they collected since they told this lie. It doesn’t matter if it was told purposefully or though incompetence.

If they don’t, I truly hope the students sue.

Either way they should call the media, which will tear into this with rabid glee.

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Well, if we can believe the evidence presented here then the administration and board of AUC as well as of the Atlantic Union Conference are liable and should be liable. Let the lawsuit proceed and the entities mentioned be judged guilty.


There is one important aspect of this tragic story which needs to be proclaimed—the students. The students are the most important part of this saga.

Students, and their parents who send their children to a SDA college or university, expect to be treated fairly and honestly by the administration, faculty and staff. For without the students there would be no SDA college or university.

AUC’s history is one of triumph and tragedy. It is difficult for church leadership to face the harsh realities of 2018 that most Adventist 18-year-olds choose not to attend the Adventist higher education system in this country.

It would seem to me that those young men and women who have chosen to grace the Adventist system with their presence and money (from whatever sources) would be valued and given proper respect by those who oversee, support and teach them on campus. It is so easy to dismiss student’s concerns and complaints, but to do so is to risk the unrepairable damage to the institution and the church.

Students—they are the real and sad crux of this matter. I hope and truly believe Andrews University will do all they can to assist these AUC students in their desperate need to continue their educational journey, and hopefully the students will have a bright future after their anguish at AUC.


To strike an optimistic tone, I think AU and SWAU will treat the students fairly.

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did these students enroll at AUC out of a sincere belief in the value of an adventist education, and did they have evidence that god was leading them in this direction…if so, there is no need for them to resort to the tactics of the world in this threatened lawsuit, which is cowardly, given its anonymity…instead, this is their opportunity to exercise faith that god will not leave them stranded…they already have evidence that andrews university is sympathetic to their situation, and is attempting to be helpful…

on the other hand, were these students seeking to game the system by using AUC to complete a degree from andrews university at a cost below its value…if so, their ruse is up…they have no standing to claim any fight for justice just because their plot to secure a degree below its true cost has been thwarted…some of the demands in their statement, which amounts to a ransom note, reveal a feeling of entitlement to what is not rightfully theirs, and would never have been on their plate had AUC remained open into perpetuity…this type of superficial, trumpian escapism, that believes injury is occurring because fantasies are not reciprocated by reality, doesn’t promote sympathy…it promotes disgust…the only injury these students stand to receive is an andrews university degree at a cost closer to its market value…this isn’t an injury…

of course, it must be conceded that AUC could have been more forthcoming about the implications of the vote by the atlantic union conference to pull its annual subsidy…one would have thought that mature individuals would have come together and formulated some kind of plan whereby AUC’s permanent closure would have been clearly spelled out for the future, with arrangements made for all currently enrolled students to receive what was promised them in the interim…at the very least, the firings without severance of all responsible for propping up a charade that they knew couldn’t be sustained would be appropriate…

in general, this entire saga is a sorry spectacle, but not out of keeping with the feeling that the original closure of AUC really was the judgement of god…extensive repentance on the part of all concerned doesn’t seem unwarranted…

With limited accreditation or none at all, should have been a red signal to students and parents that things were not as they should be, but I am sure that Andrews will help all they can. They will want these students to attend their college at Andrews, and transferring credits for approved cources, I am sure they will do. Tuition may be higher at Andrews, but that is not Atlantic Union’s fault.

All that the students are asking for is unreasonable. Free tuition here on out even for continuing into a Masters Program also free. Some lawyer shark is already talking to some parents sounds like to me . Reimbursement for all tuition paid up to date? If Andrew takes them and approves most of their credits, students should not have a case or complainy.

When I was a student at Pacific Union College, I transferred to Chico State (it was a State college then) and closer to my parent’s home making it more affordable for me at the time. It was sad, but things do not always go smoothly in this life. It all turned out well, for Chico State took all my credits minus any Bible Class, which they explained they had nothing to compare it with. PUC refunded anything that I paid for in advance up to the day I left. The transfer went smoothly. It pays to not get too excited at first, and wait and see what happens in the transferring process which takes a few weeks at best. If we believe God is leading us, and leading our Adventist Institutions, then we need to exercise our faith a bit and calm down. God knows what is best for us and going to Andrews may be the best for these students in the long run.

Agreed, but then the adventist culture is a setup for this kind of misrepresentation. It’s the church right? The church won’t do us wrong. We trust them. Such a misuse of power.