For students at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California, Covenant feels closer to home than it was a month ago. There is a chance that their independent reformed liberal arts college will be acquired by Covenant before their fall 2012 semester begins.
The news of a potential acquisition came along with the announcement that Providence’s current President Derek Halvorson will become President of Covenant this summer. In a March 16th email to the student body, Chairman of the Board Martin Moore explained the decision. “The board of trustees unanimously voted to sign a letter of intent with Providence Christian College, expressing Covenant’s intent to acquire Providence,” he said.
Since the board meetings, Covenant’s administrators have been investigating ways to make this proposed acquisition a reality.
“This is a sudden opportunity that we are doing due diligence in studying in order to make the wisest decision for both institutions,” said Covenant’s Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students, Brad Voyles.
Covenant assembled a task force composed of several Covenant administrators to receive questions and concerns from administration, faculty, and students at both Covenant and Providence in the weeks following the announcement.
While many options are being considered for this partnership, certain avenues have become more likely than others.
“One of these ways is to open a site in Pasadena that could serve Covenant College students,” said Dr. Jeffrey Hall, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Covenant.
A site in Pasadena would be beneficial for Covenant as a solution to its lack of space. The rise in enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year puts Covenant at 98 percent capacity. With a Covenant site in Pasadena, students would have the option of taking their Covenant education to Providence’s campus, where there is plenty of room.
A site would also be an opportunity for Covenant to advance its mission in a different part of the country and serve a new student demographic.
“How exciting is it to consider the churches of the West coast being attended and led by Covenant grads from Pasadena. Add to this the potential for access to the Pacific rim and Asian brothers and sisters; this could be a wonderful kingdom opportunity,” said Voyles.
Providence would equally benefit from such an acquisition. The college is currently experiencing financial troubles and lacks accreditation, which Voyles says is the “single largest hurdle to their growth.” These problems won’t persistent if Providence becomes a Covenant College arm.
But opening a site in Providence is still tentative and can’t move forward until Covenant is sure that its accreditation agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), would approve such a venture.
It is also crucial that there be a sufficient donor base to support the new site, which would cost the college approximately $2 million to run.
“We need to see if their donors are primarily giving to Providence Christian College or to Reformed higher education,” said Hall, who explained that if the donors are giving to Reformed higher education in general, there is a higher chance they would support a Covenant site.
“We are currently putting together a white paper to be taken by the Providence staff to many of their top donors. Additionally, there will be an agreed upon list of questions that will be asked of the donors, and the answers will be brought back to us,” said Troy Duble, Vice President for Advancement.
While much of the decision timeline is still up in the air, Hall is insistent that it needs to happen in “weeks, not months.”
Meanwhile, students at Providence await the decision with mixed feelings. “The younger students feel better about the potential merger than the older students do. The older students understandably feel a deep sense of identity with Providence,” said Providence admissions representative and Covenant graduate Max Belz.
But while the idea of a merger hasn’t fully settled in, Belz is optimistic about the future, whether Covenant is in the picture or not. “Providence still is — and will foreseeably be — a place that emphasizes the following things from a Christian foundation: close-knit community, engaged perspective of LA and southern California, [and] a vibrant student body of participators and leaders,” Belz said.