TIU Announces Plans to Bring Undergrad Program Online…… | news reporting

When hundreds of college students at Trinity International University (TIU) vacate their dormitories at the end of the semester in May, they will not return to the campus in suburban Chicago. Athletes will no longer dress in their white and blue Trojan uniforms. Students cannot study together in the library, eat in the dining room, or experience other rhythms of campus life.

TIU on Friday announced plans to move its undergraduate studies fully online after the end of the semester, among the first Christian colleges to end in-person learning due to the “new reality” colleges are facing.

“We know this new direction will be unwelcome news for some, but we believe this approach will allow us to serve the global church better and more effectively,” said TIU President Nicholas Perrin and Neil Nyberg, Chair of the Board of Regents, in a statement announcing the change.

The Deerfield, Illinois institution, which includes a graduate school and law school in addition to an influential evangelical seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), will continue to offer in-person education through its Illinois Divinity School and California Law School.

TIU’s media release called the termination of its undergraduate housing program a “transformation strategy” that will “position the university for long-term growth, industry leadership and continued academic excellence.”

Like higher education institutions across the country, TIU and its seminary have seen a steady decline in enrollment over the past 20 years. The university does not publish enrollment dates online, but according to the National Center for Education Statistics, TIU had 517 undergraduate and 1,330 graduate students overall.

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Friday’s announcement comes nearly a year after TEDS cut spending by nearly $1 million as the number of full-time students at evangelical seminary fell 44 percent in 20 years. The spending cuts included the elimination of at least seven faculty positions. At the time, the TIU said the budget cut was the first part of a three-phase process to “create efficiencies.”

Last year’s cuts and other cuts saved the seminary $920,000 annually, CT reported in April, or about 6 percent of operating expenses for the 2021-2022 school year. Spokesman Chris Donato previously stated that the decision was not the result of a disastrous financial situation, saying TEDS is taking “proactive steps from a position of financial caution.”

The school has not disclosed how many positions will be affected by the move of undergrad and graduate school programs online. TIU’s website says the layoff notices will be out to staff by Wednesday, February 22.

“As President of Trinity, I also pledge that amidst this transition, we will do everything in our power to assist and support our valued employees who are adversely affected by these decisions,” Perrin said.

Next week, students who wish to enroll elsewhere rather than pursue their degree online will be invited to a transfer fair attended by other Christian colleges in the area, such as North Park University and Judson University. They were also offered counseling services to process the messages.

The challenges in today’s higher education landscape span evangelical colleges and date back to before COVID-19. 65 percent of schools affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges Universities (CCCU) saw a decline in traditional undergraduate enrollment between 2014 and 2018. Higher education experts also predict that many schools will fall off a “demographic cliff” in 2025 and beyond as the pool of potential college students shrinks due to falling birth rates.

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For those evangelical schools that are seeing growth, many credit the expansion of their online programs.

Abilene Christian University, affiliated with Churches of Christ, has seen enrollment increase for five consecutive years and now 32 percent of the school’s nearly 6,000 students are online. Thirty percent of the 1,700 students at Northwestern College, a Dutch Reformed school in Iowa, are online. And at Indiana Wesleyan University, three times more students register for classes online than attend the Marion, Indiana campus.

College presidents and administrators of such schools believe that this is one of the best ways to overcome enrollment difficulties while increasing the availability of Christian education and expanding the impact of their school. Critics, on the other hand, say online degrees undermine quality and worry these programs could interfere with a Christian liberal arts education.

Last week’s news hit the TIU community hard, just three months before the end of the semester. Parents of current undergraduate students expressed frustration at the decision to end in-person and in-person learning in comments on Facebook; Alumni offered their prayers that the change would allow the school to be more effective, as executives suggested.

“This abrupt announcement fits the pattern of Perrin’s leadership, where cuts and major changes to the curriculum are announced quickly and without sensitivity to those affected,” Madison Pierce, one of the two outgoing professors who were publicly appointed last year, told Western Theological seminary have joined. “I continue to pray for my alma mater and its leadership in the hope that it will regain its place as a prophetic space within evangelicalism.”

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In an email sent to Trinity students Friday, President Perrin said the move online is part of the “remaining laser focus on our ‘why’.” and the rising cost of providing home schooling.

“We understand that while these decisions offer long-term vitality, they have significant short-term implications,” Perrin said. “I know this letter will not answer all of your questions, but we intend to provide additional details through regular communications, chapels, special meetings and other forums over the coming days.”

In addition to ending in-person undergraduate education at TIU and moving Trinity College and Trinity Graduate School fully online by the fall of 2023, the institution also decided to close Camp Timber-lee. The Wisconsin camp has lost $2.8 million since it was handed over to TIU by the Evangelical Free Church in America in 2016.