If you are one of the many students considering going to a faith-based university or college, you may have seen the acronym ABHE and wondered what it stands for. The organization designated by those letters is the Association for Biblical Higher Education. It is a nationally-recognized accrediting entity that establishes standards of excellence for Bible schools and colleges and for Christian liberal arts universities.
Related Resource: Does Accreditation Matter When it Comes to Christian Colleges?
History of the Organization
The organization website says the movement toward Christian higher education in Bible schools began in the late 1800s. In 1882, Nyack College was founded followed by Moody Bible Institute in 1886 and Tyndale University College and Seminary in 1894. Initially, the schools were intended as training institutes for missionaries and ministers, but soon they began to offer liberal arts courses as well. The Accrediting Association of Bible Institutes and Bible Colleges was formed in 1947 to address the need for quality education. After a couple of name changes, the organization took on its current title in 2004 to include Canada. Today, Bible-based colleges and universities must still require a core of theological or Bible classes, but many also offer professional studies. Education at these schools doesn’t necessarily lead to occupations within the church, but the goal is for any career to have a Biblical foundation.
The ABHE Today
There are more than a thousand Bible schools and colleges in the United States and Canada. Of these, 200 are either affiliated with, or accredited by, this organization. The accrediting commission consists of 14 representatives of member schools and three appointed public officials. It is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as a “national faith-related accrediting agency.” It has also been recognized by the US Department of Education since 1952. Accredited schools must adhere to a set of educational standards but must also affirm common core Christian beliefs annually, according to Wikipedia.
What are the Accrediting Standards?
Although many programs have separate standards of excellence, there are several which are common to secular and to Biblical schools alike. The schools seeking accreditation must have a “clear and distinctive purpose.” They must also have “ascertainable goals” and the resources to meet the goals. These resources include things like facilities, students, libraries, finances and others. They must also have developed procedures that ensure they will strive for “integrity and efficiency.” They must have a program of continuous self-evaluation and assessment and plan for improvement. The schools have to also meet other accrediting standards. Schools complete a self-evaluation packet and submit it to the organization along with a request for an accreditation visit.
What does the Future Hold?
Biblical schools are evolving. Many are adding libraries, awarding certificates; Associate, Baccalaureate and Graduate degrees and becoming members of professional organizations. They are attaining credibility in the academic world. Increasingly, faculty members have terminal degrees and the schools are building global perspectives through international presences and study. Many are also seeking secular in addition to faith-based accreditation. Still, the root of these schools is the permeation of Biblical foundations and principles into secular as well as church careers.
Because of the increase in educational opportunities offered at Christian schools, there must be a concerted effort to ensure that those schools adhere to the same standards of academic excellence as secular institutions. The core of all Christian education, however, is still the permeation of Biblical values and principles into secular as well as church careers. That core, in the evolution of Christian education, ensures the continued value of accreditation by the Association for Biblical Higher Education.