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Tennessee Temple to close, merge with Piedmont

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP) — The trustees of two Baptist colleges, Tennessee Temple University and Piedmont International University, voted unanimously to merge the institutions Tuesday (March 3).

The announcement comes a day after The Chattanoogan (Chattanoogan.com) reported TTU would be closing its doors at the end of this semester. The merger will be finalized April 30, pending the approval of the Transnational Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits both universities.

Established only a year apart in the mid-1940s, the two universities share a common mission that dates back to their founders, Charles Stevens of PIU in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Lee Roberson of TTU in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Roberson once told Piedmont’s Chancellor Howard Wilburn, “Dr. Stevens and I were great friends, and we established Piedmont and Tennessee Temple within months of each other. The two of us had a gentleman’s agreement that if either school ever faltered, the two should come together.” The current merger, born from this common ancestry is nothing short of “providential,” said Steve Echols, TTU’s current president.

“Little did our founders know that their pledge of support to each other would find fruition nearly 70 years later,” Echols said. “Merging with Piedmont is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Piedmont International University is a well-respected, outstanding Christian institution of higher education whose impact through the years for the cause of Christ is immeasurable. We are proud to return to our roots and unite as one.”

TTU online students can expect decreases in their tuition rates and a seamless transition, according to PIU officials. Online programs will be transferred in their entirety to PIU. Residential students who move to Winston-Salem will experience a drop in tuition, room and board of approximately twenty-five percent. Several TTU board members will join PIU’s board, and some of TTU’s faculty and staff will move to Winston-Salem.

PIU’s president, Charles Petitt, said the merged schools will have far greater potential together than either school can realize alone. He described the merger to be more like a marriage than the death of a spouse where one mate is gone and the other is left with only the assets.

In a marriage one mate may have to move and change a name, but no one disappears, he said. While TTU is moving and PIU will retain its name, neither school disappears.

TTU’s legacy will be preserved through the continuation of Temple Baptist Seminary as a school of PIU. Petitt noted he is proud to have a diploma from Temple Baptist Seminary hanging on his office wall.

The Tennessee Temple Scholarship has been established that will provide one-third of tuition for programs offered at Piedmont. It will be available in perpetuity for TTU students, applicants, current faculty and staff, and alumni, as well as for their children and grandchildren.

This is PIU’s third merger in less than a decade.

In 2004, the college merged with Spurgeon Baptist Bible College of Mulberry, Fla., creating the Spurgeon School of Online Education. In 2008, PIU merged with Atlantic Baptist Bible College of Chester, Va., and established the Atlantic Scholarship for Ministry Training.

Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Hendersonville, N.C. and PIU have articulation agreements that allow academic credits to transfer easily between the institutions. FBBC is owned by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

PIU is located near downtown Winston-Salem close to historic Old Salem. Originally called Piedmont Bible Institute, the name was changed to Piedmont Bible College, then Piedmont Baptist College, and finally became Piedmont International University in 2012.

The spring semester enrollment for TTU is reported to be 650 students. Approximately 220 of those attend on-campus classes while the remainder study online.

PIU reports that approximately 500 students are enrolled. A spokesman said the number of online and on-campus students overlap. Some live on campus but take all of their classes online. Roughly half of those enrolled are at the graduate level.

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