Many online Bible colleges have a solid reputation with their students and surrounding communities. Some of the largest and most well-attended online Christian schools include Liberty University, an Evangelical Christian institution in Virginia that lays claim to being the largest Christian university in the world, and St. Leo University, a Roman Catholic institution in Florida with more than 15,500 students. Perks of Liberty Online include a weekly online streaming convocation with leaders in the faith, while St. Leo’s perks include peer mentoring and free, 24/7 professional tutoring. Institutions typically do not reach this size without providing a high-quality academic experience as well as a top-notch online learning experience.
While much could be said about the online programs at well-known Christian colleges and Bible schools, the truth is the decision on which Bible college to attend should be based on factors that go beyond a school’s popularity and on to your own personal and spiritual needs. For example, does the school share your same Christian denomination and values? Does it offer the degree programs you’re looking for? In addition, choosing a high-quality Bible college involves a close look at the institution’s accreditation, rankings and recognition, as well as the perspectives of former students and alumni.
If an online Bible college is accredited, that means the school has met or exceeded minimum quality standards set by an independent accredited body as to the school’s mission and integrity, leadership, academic programs, teacher qualifications, student learning outcomes, and more. Accreditation also signifies that a school has proven that it is constantly seeking to improve itself over time. Finally, only accredited colleges are eligible to provide federal and state financial aid to their students.
Regional accreditation should be the first thing you look for when searching for reputable Christian higher education institutions. Regional accreditation is offered by one of six regional accreditation institutions in the U.S. These include the following:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
While regional accreditation is the most widely accepted type of institutional accreditation in the nation, some online Christian colleges may hold national accreditation. While national accreditation can certainly give you confidence in the quality of a college’s programs, be advised that credits earned at a nationally accredited college may not transfer into a regionally accredited college. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a list of recognized national and regional accrediting bodies here. Among the handful of national accrediting agencies is one devoted exclusively to Christian institutions, the Accrediting Commission of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Many schools hold accreditation from this agency alongside regional accreditation.
Rankings, Recognition, and Alumni Perspectives
Rankings by secular and Christian publications can also provide an idea of the quality of an online Christian college. The best-known college rankings are provided by U.S. News & World Report. Many Christian colleges that do not have a national scope are ranked in their region by U.S. News. You can also visit the college’s website and research recent news about the college to see what recognition it has received in its community. For example, finding your school listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is a good indication that the college doesn’t just pay lip service to its values, but that its students are actually making a positive impact on their communities. The best online Christian colleges will encourage you to participate in Christian service or ministry, and may even provide opportunities to do so.
Last but not least, you can always talk to alumni or former students of a Christian college’s online programs and ask if they found the programs to be high quality. Former students and alumni can also give you an idea of what to expect in terms of the rigor of programs, accessibility of professors, and convenience of online programs. By taking this steps and doing some background research, you can find a reputable online Bible college that is both academically and spiritually enriching.