In order to be faithful stewards CU is forced to reevaluate
In 2017, the Lord, through the wonderful people of Fort Morgan, Colorado, gifted Calvary University with a magnificent 130,000 sq ft facility which was renamed the Calvary University Innovation Center (CUIC). This gift was accompanied by a tremendous outpouring of public support, which CU leaders at the time knew would have to translate into significant student enrollment if the effort there was to be sustainable.
The initial plan was to transform the facility into a unique, innovative space where Christian educators, ministries, and the public at large could co-locate, collaborate and hold events.
Unfortunately, a year and a half later, the university still can’t get off the starting blocks.
As CU quickly pursued and invested in this vision, and despite its unflagging efforts, to include faculty and staff relocation, one key obstacle has stalled sustainable progress: the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CODHE) has still inexplicably delayed in granting CU permission to offer anything but “religious” programs in CO.
More than a year ago, CU submitted application to operate in CO as a University. The CODHE only granted approval as a religious entity, meaning that CU could offer its “religious” based programs, but couldn’t operate as a university offering more in-demand degree programs like business and education. Knowing that those two programs in particular were the greatest need and opportunity for student enrollment in the area, CU continued working with the CODHE, rapidly submitting all requested information.
Each dutiful submission resulted in requests for more information and, at times, revelation of new submission requirements inexplicably neglected earlier in the process.
To CU leaders it has seemed like more than a year of runaround, as the school has not been able to get the simple approval it needs and has easily acquired in other states. “We would have never dreamed we would still be at this stage after a year and a half. It is crippling – we have high quality, in-demand programs, and have had no problem receiving accreditation and reaccreditation with national and regional accreditors.”
The process Dr. Bitner, CU’s Chief Academic Officer, referred to is the CODHE’s referral of all submitted materials to a pair of private consultants who review, comment, and recommend. The school is essentially at the mercy of these consultants and their limitations. “It seems clear that the consultants the CODHE outsources are very comfortable with traditional models of education, but seem unfamiliar with multisite and online programs. Perhaps because the latter is the model we are bringing to the table, we have been placed into back and forth process. I am sure these are good folks, but the processes don’t seem to serve the people of Colorado very well.”
After almost two years of substantial planning, preparation, and CU investment, university leadership finds themselves at a point where, in order to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to them and not hamstring other university operations, they are forced to reevaluate how to proceed in Colorado.
Tania Edwards, VP of enrollment management, explained that because of the continued delays and sea of red tape, CU is now two major recruiting cycles behind. This, coupled with the university’s over $2 million investment in the past year and a half demands an urgent change to its model. “Because we have not been able to recruit based on the in-demand programs we offer, we have seen only marginal growth in Colorado-based enrollment—an unsustainable situation. Unfortunately, the CODHE’s disappointing delays deny us the ability to recruit for the very programs that could sustain us,” Edwards went on to say. “It has been very disappointing that with this high level of personal investment in the state and in Fort Morgan, the state’s agency hasn’t been helpful. It is a remarkably frustrating place to be.”
In today’s uncertain and turbulent times, extended delay and indecisiveness in the higher education realm often equates to institutional suicide. Still profoundly grateful for the gift of the property in Fort Morgan, as well as the opportunity to come alongside and ensure the sustainability of Riverview Christian Academy (soon to relaunch as Calvary University Academy), CU is reevaluating how to best steward the property.
Accordingly, Dr. Cone is leading a comprehensive reevaluation of the university’s operation in Fort Morgan. “We are completely committed to the people of Fort Morgan and of Colorado. Because to this point, we have not been granted the ability to offer our full catalog of programs, we are reevaluating and retooling for long term sustainable efforts in Colorado. This will probably mean shifting our operations into more economical facilities, as we will never come close to covering the cost of operation in the Innovation Center without the state approval to operate as a university.”
Cone expects CU to move quickly so as to still be able to serve Coloradans in the long-term. Calvary leaders will be pleading Calvary’s case before the CODHE commission at the next opportunity. “We are looking at ways to have less of a footprint as we move forward, and the partnerships we have formed will be important in that process. We may even be looking at selling the building that houses the Innovation Center. In the short term, we have been forced to consider some uncomfortable decisions.”
Nevertheless, while Calvary University has encountered obstacles in Colorado, efforts in the state have still contributed to CU’s award-winning global enrollment growth. Several degree programs can be taken locally at the Innovation Center, including Bible and Theology, Biblical Counseling, Ministry Studies, Pastoral Ministry, Youth Ministry, Intercultural Studies, and Worship Arts. Most other degrees can be taken online or through CU’s main campus in Kansas City.