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Commission established to review Adventist Church's Griggs University

Distance-learning institution at technology, financial crossroads

Commission established to review Adventist Church's Griggs University

Griggs University, the distance learning institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is facing challenges in keeping up with technology and online education delivery, church leadership said. [photo: Megan Brauner/ANN]

Griggs University could be in long-term danger of closing without renewed commitment from Seventh-day Adventist Church administration, even though it's currently a "strong" institution, school officials said.

Based at the church's world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, the distance-learning institution is falling behind on current uses of technology and online education delivery, according to church administrators.

The church's Executive Committee this week appointed a short-term distance-study commission to investigate current best practices for distance education.

"It's our request that church administration examine what services it expects from Griggs," said Don Sahly, Griggs' president.

Last year was the institution's worst year financially despite a 12-month enrollment increase of some 1,500 students, Sahly said.

Griggs University launched 100 years ago as Home Study International, a correspondence school for children of missionaries living oversees. Today it has less than 30 such students on its 5,000-student roster. The institution has evolved to serve college and graduate students, entering areas of the world where the Adventist Church hasn't, including Vietnam, United Arab Eremites and Saudi Arabia.

Though the institution's work doesn't generate much revenue in some parts of the world, Sahly said it contributes to the church's mission. Affiliate campuses are mostly reaching people who are not Adventist Church members.

"Who else has gone to Hanoi [Vietnam] and been able to make 2,000 contacts," Sahly said.

While the school has expanded into developing markets during the past five years, it hasn't been able to keep up with evolving distance education technology and practices.

"We need fundamental change," said Ella Simmons, a general vice president of the Adventist Church and chair of the newly appointed commission. During a report to the church's Executive Committee she said "essential unanswered questions" remained regarding the structure, financial feasibility, location and market demand for distance education supported by the world church, which require "immediate and close scrutiny."

The commission is scheduled to report to the world church's Executive Committee in April.