Life Pacific College (LPC, also called LIFE Bible College) in San Dimas, Calif., was honored with a top national award in February when the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) recognized the institution for outstanding enrollment growth during the 2010-2011 school year.
The Foursquare Bible college received the 2012 Jonathan N. Thigpen Enrollment Growth Award after posting a 54 percent increase during the academic year. Its exceptional rate of growth was the highest among the award’s other co-winners: Ohio Christian University, Columbia Bible College and Carolina Christian College.
“This was such a kind and affirming award to receive,” says LPC President Robert Flores, D.Min. “I am humbled and honored to be recognized this way.”
The award was announced on Feb. 24 in Orlando, Fla., during the annual conference of the ABHE, a North American agency that comprises some 200 post-secondary institutions specializing in biblical ministry formation and professional leadership education.
“We were surprised by the news and grateful to be recognized,” says Angie Richey, M.Ed., director of College Relations. “It represented a lot of hard work.”
It marked the first time LPC has been named a recipient of the award, which is given annually to one institution in each of four enrollment “quadrants.” LPC was in the 200-399 full-time enrollment quadrant, but as a result of the college’s vibrant growth, enrollment now stands at 598 students. It is an encouraging visible sign of LPC’s success with the new programs, partnerships and creative educational models it is developing.
One important growth metric is the result of the college’s new Master of Arts in Strategic Leadership, or MASL, program. Launched in January 2011, it is helping Foursquare leaders who are already in ministry to become more effective in their roles.
“The [MASL] program has been a longtime dream for LPC,” explains Frank Markow, Ph.D., director of Adult and Graduate Studies. “[It] has opened new opportunities amongst Foursquare leaders, namely those with a B.A. who have risen in leadership and now need ongoing education to help them serve with greater skill and confidence.”
In the year since its inception, the MASL has produced three “cohorts”—groups of 12 or more students who start and complete the two-year program together—and accounts for about 30 percent of the new enrollment growth.
The college is also seeing significant interest in its online Degree Completion Program, or DCP. Its bachelor of arts in Ministry and Leadership targets working leaders, such as pastors who have some prior college education but did not finish a degree.
“We have offered this program since 2005 and have graduated around 100 students who would not otherwise have been able to attend the college,” explains Brian Tomhave, M.A., associate dean of Non-Traditional Studies.
Another factor in enrollment growth is Foursquare’s Ignite Academy, a Life extension campus in Christiansburg, Va. It is spurring a significant enrollment increase and accounts for about half of the new growth. Under the leadership of director Mike Larkin, Ph.D., Ignite is opening new doors to ministry and education for Foursquare on the East Coast.
Also vital to LPC’s current growth as it plans for the future is the Internet. The school’s online, or Distance Learning, option offers “courses for credit and noncredit that students can complete from anywhere in the world,” Angie tells Foursquare.org.
“We see that trend climbing as people take advantage of the online, flexible options,” she continues. “Our online and distance learning courses keep leaders of all ages in their cities, in their ministries and on the front lines of where they live.”
Students enrolled in LPC’s Distance Learning program include those in the MASL and DCP programs, Ignite and Independent Study courses. Altogether, these students account for some 25 percent of LPC’s current full-time enrollment. By July 1, all of LPC’s Independent Study courses will be online.
The college has long-term goals for reinventing itself by the end of this decade. These include developing programs for Hispanic leaders and dual majors for bi-vocational pastors.
“We recognize that the way ministry will be done in 2020 and beyond is not likely to be the same as the way it was 10 or 20 years ago,” explains Academic Dean Michael Salmeier, Ph.D. “We want to equip our students … in ways that are relevant and applicable.”
The Thigpen Award is compelling evidence that LPC’s numerous efforts to expand its horizons are working.
“While we are encouraged by [the award], there is still much work to be done,” Angie says. “It will take a strategic, determined and fiscally responsible team to keep moving forward in light of the complexities we face every day.”
For Dr. Flores, the award reflects the success of LPC’s strategic internal partnerships. “We could not have done it,” he says, “without our Ignite family, the MASL program, our adult learners and the students in our Degree Completion Program.”
By: Jimmy Stewart, a freelance writer living in the Orlando, Fla., area