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Calif. university exec to lead Baptist college association

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (BP)—-Ron Ellis, president of California Baptist University, has been named board chairman of the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools’ 16-member board of directors for 2005-06.

Jim Netherton, president of Carson-Newman College, is the association’s new vice chair/chair-elect while Richard Parker, CFO of Houston Baptist University is the recording secretary.

New board members, with terms expiring in 2009, are Lee Royce, president of Mississippi College; Dan Lunsford, president of Mars Hill College; Carla Sanderson, provost at Union University; and Carlisle Driggers, executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Elizabeth Gomez, chief academic officer at Bluefield College, will fill an unexpired term ending in June 2007.

The new officers and board members were elected during the ASBCS annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

Also during the early June sessions, Norman A. Wiggins, president emeritus of Campbell University, was named as the recipient of the Charles D Johnson Outstanding Educator Award. The award was officially presented to Wiggins at Campbell University in mid-August.

The association’s executive director, Bob Agee, reported that ASBCS is working with Baylor to fund, plan and conduct a conclave of about 50 Baptist educators who would work on long-range goals and mission statements for Baptist higher education. The conclave is scheduled for Oct. 9-11 in Birmingham, Ala., at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort.

The ASBCS attendees, numbering 200 top administrators from 38 Baptist colleges and universities among the association’s 53 member institutions, chose June 3-5 in San Diego as the date and site for the 2007 annual meeting. California Baptist University and President Ron Ellis will host the meeting.

The 2006 annual meeting and workshops are scheduled for June 4-6 in Charleston, S.C., at the Embassy Suites Convention Center. Charleston Southern University and President Jairy Hunter will host the meeting.

Bob Andringa, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) in Washington, one of the annual meeting’s featured speakers, noted, “Traditional religiously affiliated colleges in America could become an endangered species if we do not respond to a rapidly changing world.”

Andringa, who discussed the value of working together within the larger Christian college family, cited three key challenges: cost, competition and Christianity.

“One antidote,” he said, “is collaboration.

“Our costs are becoming unaffordable to most people,” Andringa said. “The competition from lower-cost publics and for-profits, here and soon from abroad, is steadily increasing.

“Our Christ-centeredness, while the heart of our distinctive and critical to the mission success that we enjoy today, also prompts a set of legal, political and public relations factors that may marginalize our future. We must engage in more collaboration if we hope to be viable, thriving institutions 20 years from now,” the CCCU president said.

Another featured speaker, Jim Rogers, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission of Colleges, outlined accreditation issues facing Christian colleges and universities.

“Without question, securing and maintaining adequate finances would be the number one challenge [to accreditation], not just for Christian colleges, but for all private institutions,” Rogers said. “I know of no other challenge of greater significance or that will contribute more to the long-term survival of your institutions than securing and ensuring adequate financial support.”

Rogers outlined four other special challenges that he said faith-based institutions face as they conduct their business and live up to the agreed-upon expectations of the higher education community:

1. Being true to your mission during a time of tremendous change in higher education.

2. Maintaining a healthy relationship with the denomination while at the same time asserting autonomy.

3. Balancing independence with public accountability.

4. Dealing with special pressures facing faith-based institutions, including the financial vulnerability to a changing market and economic downturns; the dependence on enrollment numbers for financial stability; and the temptation to expand offerings as a way of attracting students, even though the institution may not have the personnel or other resources to do so.

David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Washington, addressed key public policy issues facing independent colleges and universities involving financing, regulations, accountability, faculty tenure, technology, restructuring or downsizing, affirmative action in admissions and hiring and demographic trends including age, culture and race.

“Like healthcare, higher education must find ways to reduce the rate of increase of costs while maintaining both quality and access,” Warren said. “Every institution must answer core questions: whom will we teach, what will we teach, how will we teach, who will be the teachers, what will be the cost and how will that cost be paid?

“There continues to be some misunderstanding about independent colleges and universities as to how they operate and how they contribute to the great strength of American higher education,” Warren said. “All of us who are committed to independent institutions must make new efforts to understand and to explain to others their financing, their distinctive contributions to American society, and their heroic efforts to serve talented and willing students without regard to their personal economic circumstances.”
Tim Fields is director of communications of the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools.

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  • Tim Fields