It’s no surprise that as the economy continues to suffer and higher education costs continue to rise, many college-bound students are being forced to reconsider their post-high school plans. Often, that means evangelical students who would normally choose a private Christian education end up at more affordable state universities. However, at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., faculty and staff are helping students reimagine what it means to get a quality biblical education for a more practical price.
Starting in Fall 2011, Grace College, which is affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, will offer students the opportunity to earn a three-year accelerated bachelor’s degree in each of its 50-plus major areas of study. Students on the accelerated track may earn a bachelor’s degree in three years or a bachelor’s and master’s degree in four.
Grace President Dr. Ron Manahan says this new accelerated degree track, which comes with a redesigned academic calendar and a new emphasis on applied learning, meets a pressing need for a more affordable biblical education. He realizes that students can cut college costs by as much as 50 percent by saving a year’s worth of expenses and earning income in the workforce a year earlier.
“This is radical for us,” notes Manahan. “There is risk, but the risk is far greater if we do not do what we are doing.”
While the three-year accelerated degree option is becoming more popular in the United States, Grace is among the first schools in the nation to offer an accelerated track for students in all majors. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who recently began pushing for more of the state’s schools to adopt a three-year option, publicly supports Grace’s efforts to implement a creative solution to rising college expenses.
“Grace College is showing the academic innovation and leadership for which it is known,” says Daniels.
The new program is designed to help students achieve degrees at a quicker pace without sacrificing academic rigor. Students will typically focus on two to three courses at a time and will have the option to take two online classes each summer, enabling them to live and work anywhere.
The new structure also emphasizes applied learning, allowing students to gain valuable real-life experience in their chosen fields. Students will be required to participate in at least 12 credit hours of hands-on learning experiences, such as study abroad, internships, collaborative research projects, and student teaching. For ministry-minded students, there is an opportunity to serve and learn in the local church body while also earning college credit.
Though Grace’s academic calendar and class structure will change in Fall 2011, Manahan promises that the curriculum redesign and three-year degree option will not change the college’s dedication to its core essentials.
“Our commitment to students is only paralleled by our dedication and resolve to provide high quality education that is committed to teaching the authority of scripture and the value of a strong biblical community,” he stresses. “Grace has stood on these values for years; we have held a uniform commitment to them.”
While Grace accepts Christian students from all backgrounds, many come from within the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (FGBC). Grace also offers $1 million in scholarships to FGBC students. To qualify for one of the 200 scholarships for Grace Brethren young people (in the amount of $5,000), admitted applicants must be from a Grace Brethren church and meet academic requirements.
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