By Jim Nieman
Nebraska Christian College will close at the end of this semester.
The announcement was made this afternoon after a decision by the Hope International University board of trustees. HIU and NCC had merged in 2016.
“To give you an idea of our current challenge, our spring enrollment there [at NCC] has fallen to under 90 students, which is the lowest in 30 years,” said Paul Alexander, president of the combined university, via a video posted at NCC’s website. “The number of students required to cover our costs there is just about 200. So, that gap is simply too big. We don’t have the students we need to continue.”
“The past two years has taken a large toll on the student body and financial condition of the college,” Alexander said.
Despite the closure, university officials have assured students enrolled at the Nebraska campus that multiple options are open to them.
“It is imperative that our students and their families understand this is a branch campus closure,” Alexander said. “Students enrolled at NCC are already HIU students, by virtue of the merger, and will continue to be enrolled at HIU.” While the news is likely unsettling and disappointing, he said, “we want them to know that we will do everything in our power to assist them through this.”
Students may choose to transition to HIU’s campus in Fullerton, Calif., to complete their degree programs or to complete their degrees online. According to a press release, half of NCC’s 85 students are already enrolled in online programs, and may continue uninterrupted, while the other half have the option to transition to the Fullerton campus or complete their degrees online.
This transition will not increase students’ out-of-pocket tuition costs, and institutional financial aid levels will remain the same, according to the announcement.
Ministry students participating in residencies will be able to continue at their current host churches. HIU plans to consult with church leaders in the NCC region to develop a plan for preserving ongoing ministry preparation opportunities, Alexander said.
THE 2016 MERGER
Back in 2016, the merger of HIU and NCC was seen as an opportunity to build on the strengths of both institutions.
HIU’s then-president John Derry said at the time, “We will integrate the best of both HIU and NCC, in pursuit of our shared mission.” The partnership was also seen as a way to “offer long-term strategic and financial sustainability.”
The merger ensured regional accreditation to NCC’s academic programs and expanded the breadth of degrees offered in the Midwest region by adding HIU’s undergraduate, graduate, and online programs. It also ensured that each campus maintained a unique identity.
HIU was an early adopter and has been seen as a leader in online Christian education; it was anticipated that that strength could be put to good use in the Midwest.
Throughout its history, NCC focused on pastoral ministry and developed a solid reputation for preparing pastors through its Institute for Church Leadership, which included on-campus learning and church residency components.
NCC has granted degrees to more than 1,000 students over the course of its 75-year history.
The decision to close the Nebraska Christian College campus is the second major closure in the past few months among Christian colleges affiliated with the Restoration Movement. Cincinnati Christian University ceased operations after the fall semester.
The last remaining RM-affiliated college in Nebraska is Summit Christian College in Gering.
NCC STARTED IN NORFOLK IN 1944
Nebraska Christian College started its life in 1944 in Norfolk, Neb., and remained there until 2006, when it moved to Papillion, Neb., in the Omaha metro area.
The college was founded in a converted apartment house, according to a Norfolk (Neb.) Daily News story from 2009. “About 15 years later, as enrollment swelled and facilities tightened, overflow space was added across the street.”
“In the early 1970s, Nebraska Christian gradually migrated from its cramped downtown quarters to 85 acres of untouched land along Norfolk’s northwest edge, where it remained until its move to Sarpy County in 2006,” the story continued.
At the time it moved to Papillion, NCC still had plenty of room for expansion in Norfolk, but its buildings were aging and the school longed for exposure to an area where there were more supporting churches, the Daily News story said. Norfolk (a city of about 25,000) and the surrounding area had only 10 supporting churches within an hour’s drive of campus where students could plug into ministries. Omaha was much —more than 400,000 people—and had more than 40 churches affiliated with the Restoration Movement in the vicinity, which offered a greater variety of opportunities for student internships.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.