By Stan Friedman
ORLANDO, FL (February 22, 2012) – Alaska Christian College (ACC) received accreditation from the Association for Biblical Higher Education at its meeting here on Tuesday so the school can now offer associates degrees and students can transfer credits more easily as well as have access to additional financial aid.
“ACC’s transition into the world of higher education has been validated here today,” President Keith Hamilton said this morning.
It also marks the first time the denomination has two accredited institutions of higher learning, Hamilton noted. The Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska operates the school, which is located in Soldotna.
The association, which is an accrediting body for the U.S. Department of Education, officially awarded the school “initial accreditation” status, which means its first review will be in five years. After that, reviews will be conducted every 10 years, Hamilton said.
The accreditation comes at a time when the school has 49 students enrolled, the largest in its history. The college serves predominantly low-income Alaska Native students from villages stretched across the bush area of the state.
The opportunity for students to apply for more forms of financial aid is critical, said Hamilton. Unemployment in some villages runs higher than 40 percent, and many of the students must help their families with subsistence farming and fishing during breaks in the school year.
The school has helped students make the difficult transition from village life to their first year of college. Less than five percent of Alaska Native high school graduates complete even their first semester of college, statistics show. Alaska Christian College operates part of its program in cooperation with nearby Kenai Peninsula College, an extension of the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Alaska Christian College leaders have begun to consider the possibility of offering an associate’s degree in paraprofessional education that would enable graduates to teach in village schools, as well as a general degree that would emphasize biblical studies. Hamilton emphasized those discussions are in early stages.
The school was founded in 2001. The college received accreditation more quickly than is normally granted because of the work it has done in pursuing the status and in continually enhancing its program.
The school has long been recognized for its excellence. During a celebration of the college’s five-year anniversary in 2006, Lt. Governor Loren Leman told the gathering, “Alaska Christian College (ACC) is one of the best things happening in education in Alaska.”