November 18, 2009

32CN: Commission Established to Review Church's Griggs University

Commission Established to Review Church's Griggs University
Distance-learning institution at technology, financial crossroads

assistant director for News, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
capGriggs 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.
During the recent Annual Council, the church's Executive Committee appointed a short-term distance-study commission to investigate current best practices for distance education.


COMMISSION ESTABLISHED: Don Sahly, president of Griggs University, the church's distance learning educational institution, listens during October 14 discussion about the school’s future. [Photo: Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN]

“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 fewer 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 does not have a strong presence, including Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, 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, 2010.