Baptist college gains Vermont accreditation

BENNINGTON, Vt. (BP) -- Northeastern Baptist College has achieved Vermont accreditation and degree-granting authority in a unanimous vote Sept. 16 by the State Board of Education.

The college, which opened in the fall of 2013 in Bennington, Vt., now has more than three dozen students, at least 25 of whom are full-time.

"We have crossed our first major accreditation step and are right now preparing to take the next step of seeking regional accreditation," said Mark Ballard, the college's president.

The vote by Vermont's State Board of Education was on the recommendation of the Vermont Higher Education Council and the Vermont Agency of Education, Ballard reported.

Northeastern Baptist College, on the Web at www.nebcvt.org, offers three degree programs -- bachelor of arts in biblical studies, bachelor of arts in music and bachelor of science in Christian counseling -- along with a diploma in Christian ministry.

Within the bachelor of arts in biblical studies are five concentrations: church planting/entrepreneurial leadership, pastoral ministries, Christian education, creative writing and interdisciplinary studies.

The bachelor of arts in music has three concentrations: voice, keyboarding and guitar.

NEBC, with five full-time faculty members and 16 adjunct instructors, has established a partnership with the Baptist Convention of New England and the Green Mountain Baptist Association in Vermont.

Ballard, a native of Pueblo, Colo., and his wife Cindy moved to New Hampshire in 1998 to plant Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in Londonderry, where he served 12 years before beginning fulltime efforts in 2010 to establish the college.

Describing an example of how "God is at work in New England," Ballard told Baptist Press he and a number of NEBC faculty, staff and students will be venturing to the site of the Haystack Prayer Meeting at Williams College in Massachusetts, an early 1800s place of commitment for the first American student volunteers for foreign missions, located about 15 miles from the NEBC campus.

"We will be meeting with a group of students who are meeting for prayer and Bible study each week. This is so significant not only because of the known history but because our board chairman [Timothy Christian] and myself visited this site in 1999 and prayed that the Lord would bring a new spiritual awakening on the campus. Since that time we have visited the campus and prayed that same prayer over and over again. Since we have been working in Bennington over the last three years, we have taken hundreds of Southern Baptist mission teams, pastors and leaders to that site to pray with us. Now, the Lord has brought together a group of believers on the campus and is connecting us. We are praying that the Lord will use this event [Sept. 19] to spark a fresh awakening across this region."

Regarding the college's new standing in Vermont, Ballard stated in a news release, "We praise the Lord for His faithfulness to call each of our students, faculty, staff and trustees to this endeavor. We praise Him for giving us the wisdom, strength, courage and provisions necessary every step of the way."

He thanked the Bennington community for their support of the college and his wife and son Benjamin for the sacrifices they have made.

Ballard told Baptist Press the Vermont process for accreditation and degree-granting authority began with an extensive self-study encompassing "every detail of the life of the college" and numerous pages of documentation on "how we conducted the evaluation and providing supporting documentation of our conclusions."

The self-study was reviewed by the Vermont Higher Education Council and the Vermont Agency of Education along with a team of Vermont education leaders whose evaluation included a campus visit to interview administration, faculty, staff and students. Ballard and the college's dean of academics then went to the state capital, Montpelier, to meet with a committee of college presidents, vice presidents and a chancellor who finalized their recommendation to the Vermont Agency of Education before the State Board of Education's Sept. 16 vote.

"Having walked through this extensive evaluation," Ballard said, "educational leaders in Vermont have acknowledged that NEBC offers a legitimate educational program that leads to a bachelor's degree."

In Bennington, Northeastern Baptist College shares a former Ramada Inn and Conference Center with an elementary and secondary Christian school. NEBC uses the third and fourth floors of the building while Grace Christian School is housed on the first two floors. The college's Hogue Library is in a separate building, and a former motel has been purchased and is being renovated for student housing, with an anticipated move-in date of Oct. 15.

Ballard was the 2002-03 president of the Baptist Convention of New England. He currently is enrolled in the Ph.D. program of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. He holds a master of divinity degree from Southeastern and an undergraduate degree from Criswell College in Dallas.

Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.
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