In a previous issue of PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, we critiqued the biblical counseling major at Trinity College of the Bible and Trinity Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana (September-October 1995).
As we pursued the biblical counseling program at Trinity, we discovered some other problems with the institution as a whole.
The first of these is the problem of accreditation. Trinity advertising says: “Trinity now offers accredited bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. . . .” In looking into Trinity’s accreditation, we found that Trinity is not accredited by any organization recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation (CORPA). Trinity is accredited by the National Association of Private, Nontraditional Schools and Colleges (NAPNSC). In checking with the USDE, we learned that “NAPNSC is not an agency recognized by the USDE.”1 Nor is it approved by CORPA.
The NAPNSC Newsletter quotes the USDE as follows: “NAPNSC has applied for recognition in the past and been found not to be in full compliance with all of the requirements for recognition.”2 And, just recently NAPNSC withdrew its petition for recognition by the USDE.3
Someone might say that it was necessary for Trinity to go to NAPNSC because of the fact that Trinity provides nontraditional schooling. However, regional accrediting organizations recognized by the USDE accredit both traditional and nontraditional schools, colleges, universities, Bible colleges and seminaries. And, there are also accrediting agencies recognized by the USDE that specifically accredit Bible colleges and seminaries.
If one objects to the idea of a Bible college or seminary even being accredited, then criticisms should be leveled at the many institutions that are accredited. Those who know the least about accreditation can be its worst critics.
A second issue of concern is the report to us that past Ph.D. graduates of Trinity did not take proctored course examinations. According to Dr. Thomas Rodgers, President of Trinity Theological Seminary, course examinations are currently proctored. But, just think of the number of graduates from the past who did not have proctored course exams. We confirmed with author-pastor Ed Bulkley that he did not take proctored course exams for his correspondence Ph.D. at Trinity. This causes us to wonder about his excessive use of the doctor title. However, we are happy to report that he no longer recommends Trinity and has asked his publisher to remove Trinity from his source list in future printings of his books.
Trinity obviously spends a huge amount of money on advertising. According to their 1994 Form 990, filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Trinity’s total revenue was $2,769,208. In a phone conversation, Dr. Rodgers said that schools such as his spend up to ten percent of their gross income for advertising. We have noticed over the years numerous ads for Trinity in a variety of publications. During the past year we have particularly noticed full-page, four-color ads in Christianity Today. A recent ad in CT was an inside front cover. According to the CT ad rate sheet, a single ad such as this for a single issue of CT is $7,084.4 Reductions are given for multiple insertions. In the same issue was a full-color, one-third-page ad, which prices at $2,366.
In addition to advertising, another large expenditure area is that of administrative salaries. According to the same 1994 IRS Form 990, the three highest paid administrators were: Dr. Thomas Rodgers at $124,737 salary plus $59,000 for “expense account and other allowances”; Dr. George Stiles at $55,000 plus $31,200 for “expense account and other allowances”; and Dr. Harold Hunter at $73,231. Their current salaries may be higher.
While our initial concern with Trinity was prompted by their biblical counseling program, we expanded this concern when we looked at the institution as a whole. Its claim to offer accredited degrees, but its lack of accreditation by a USDE or CORPA recognized agency, its past practice of unproctored course exams, its intense investment in advertising, and its seemingly high paid administrators are all of concern to us.
We are not opposed to nontraditional education or to distance learning either by correspondence or computer. And, it is not necessary for Trinity to go to one of the regional USDE-approved accrediting agencies. There are Christians who have USDE-approved accrediting agencies, such as the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges and the Association of Theological Schools.
If you are considering undergraduate or graduate education, just be sure that you know what you are buying and the value of the degree. One should be particularly concerned if the school is not accredited by a USDE or CORPA approved accrediting agency. CORPA was set up by the accrediting agencies so that the accrediting agencies must meet mutually agreed upon standards. Though set up by the accrediting agencies, it is an independent body and is an assurance of integrity and quality for both the accrediting agencies and the schools they accredit.
There are some schools that have chosen to be unaccredited and are considered academically to be outstanding institutions, such as Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College. However, those institutions, though unaccredited, are traditional. Credits earned from those institutions are acceptable to many accredited institutions. Trinity, on the other hand, claims to be accredited, but is unaccredited by a USDE or CORPA approved agency, and is also non traditional. Our warning is directed at institutions that are both unaccredited and non-traditional. Trinity may be a good place to receive a degree, other than in biblical counseling, provided one does not need a degree from an institution accredited by an accrediting agency approved by the USDE or CORPA. Also the units and the degree from Trinity will generally not be recognized by regularly accredited institutions. Furthermore, regularly accredited institutions will generally discount such a degree when evaluating an individual for employment.
1Dr. Karen Kershenstein, Director, Accreditation, USDE.
2USDE, quoted in N-A-P-N-S-C Newsletter, 11/15/93, p. 11.
3Kershenstein, op. cit.
4Rates & Data, CTi Family of Magazines, 1995.