Tuesday marks a major milestone in the 75-year-old life of one of the Assemblies of God's legacy institutions of higher learning in the Eastern United States.
In part because of the expanding roster of degree offerings at Valley Forge Christian College, the school's Board of Trustees has agreed to change its name to the University of Valley Forge. The change is effective Tuesday, following approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Triggering the change is both recognition of the school's recent expansion of its degree programs and a conviction that "university" better describes its status as a growing institution that is broadening its curriculum at not only the undergrad and graduate levels but also in online learning, continuing education and the role of extension campuses in Virginia, Illinois and South Carolina.
"The mission of the University of Valley Forge will not change," said President Don Meyer, Ph.D. "Though our name will change, the spirit of the institution, the dedication of our faculty and staff, the worldwide impact of our alumni, and the abiding commitment to our God-given mission will continue to be the hallmarks of the university."
The university offers 67 undergraduate majors, seven graduate programs and nine associate programs. It has a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio serving about 1,100 students.
There also are marketing considerations behind the name change. Overseas, some cultures think of "college" as being more like high school.
"Changing the name will more accurately represent our institution to individuals seeking learning opportunities or teaching positions—no matter where they reside," the school said in a prepared statement. "In many foreign cultures, the word 'college' commonly refers to pre-university academic programs, so clarifying our status strengthens our ability to attract a broader, more diverse pool of candidates for recruiting both new faculty and students.
"Being a university also better aligns us with higher-education ranking systems that are becoming increasingly important as search tools. It also enhances our fund-raising possibilities, foundation opportunities and grant awards that would further grow our campus and academic programs."
In preparation for the official name change, the school has created new branding that includes a UVF seal and logo, as well as a new athletic logo and patriot icon. Signage, marketing materials and other items will be rolled out in the coming months
In addition, school officials acknowledge, adding the word university, while dropping Christian from the name may help students who are looking for jobs or applying to graduate school.
"The new name will help students obtain entrance into graduate schools and make it easier for alumni to enter foreign countries where religious freedoms are restricted," a statement read.
What is now the University of Valley Forge is part of an international network of Assemblies of God colleges and universities—one of 17 in the United States alone. As a private university of the arts, sciences and professions, it provides undergraduate, graduate and lifelong-learning programs, whose mission is to prepare individuals for a life of service and leadership in the church and the world. The University of Valley Forge's 150-acre main campus is in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, in the rolling hills of Chester County west of Philadelphia.
The school traces its roots to 1939, when several small Bible institutes consolidated and formed Eastern Bible Institute (EBI), in Green Lane, Pennsylvania. The institution was granted a charter to train evangelists, pastors, missionaries, and Christian educators and lay workers. EBI expanded in numbers and property space becoming Northeast Bible Institute and, after a fourth year of study was added, became Northeast Bible College (NBC). In 1976-77, NBC moved to its current location in Phoenixville on the site of the former Valley Forge General Hospital and was renamed Valley Forge Christian College.
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