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Ecclesia College is a Christian “work learning” college located in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties). Founded in 1975 by Oren Paris II as a training center for young missionaries, the now fully accredited four-year college educates students for a variety of professional fields and features a strong emphasis in Christian faith and character, work ethic, mentoring, and service.
Ecclesia College is a branch of the “Ecclesia Network.” Ecclesia, the parent organization, was incorporated in 1976 and has participated in Christian service worldwide through ministries such as Youth With a Mission (a one-year training program), Twila Paris Productions, Bibles for the Nations, Living Alternatives, Elm Springs Christian School, Ecclesia Children’s Ministries, Ecclesia Relief and Development, Ecclesia College, and Ecclesia Prep.
Founder Oren Paris II, educated in music and theology at Southwestern University and Texas Wesleyan University, established Ecclesia College in order to provide students a deeper understanding of the Bible and various academic disciplines before entering their professional lives, including as international missionaries. Inductive Bible study was an integral part of the training program from the beginning, but Paris envisioned the existing one-year training schools ultimately transitioning into an accredited, four-year program. From 1975 through 1995, an increasing number of academic classes were offered. Although not yet accredited by 1995, the college offered enough Bible and other classes to make up its first full four-year degree—the Bachelor of Biblical Studies.
In 1996, Ecclesia College applied for accreditation through the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) and, after a nine-year self-study process, was granted accreditation in 2005. ABHE is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and by the Council for Higher Education and Accreditation (CHEA).
In March 1997, Ecclesia’s board of governance inaugurated Oren Paris III as the president of Ecclesia. (Oren Paris II served as chancellor from 2003 until his death in June 2012.) Under his leadership, the campus expanded to 200 acres, with extensive plans for growth and development, including an expansion of classrooms and a new dormitory in 2013.
Ecclesia College became a liberal arts school in 2007 and offers the following degrees as of 2013: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Bachelor of Science in Sport Management, Bachelor of Communication Ministries, Bachelor of Christian Counseling, Bachelor of Christian Leadership, Bachelor of Music Ministries, Bachelor of Biblical Studies, Associate of General Studies, and Associate of Biblical Studies. In 2013, Ecclesia College’s student body was approximately 200 students, with about half studying online.
Ecclesia College makes a private Christian higher education available to Christian students, regardless of their financial background. This is accomplished to a great extent through the college’s Work Learning Program, which significantly offsets educational expenses.
Denominationally and culturally diverse, Ecclesia seeks to cultivate a strong sense of community. Ecclesia students regularly participate in cross-cultural service initiatives, locally and abroad, and Ecclesia has earned a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for three years.
It was announced in February 2016 that classes would be offered in the school's new David Barton College of Political Science in fall 2016.
On March 2, 2017, federal charges were filed again President Oren Paris III, as well as state Senator Jon Woods of Springdale and Randell Shelton Jr. According to the indictment, from 2013 to 2015, Woods and state Representative Micah Neal, also of Springdale, directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money from the General Improvement Fund (GIF) to Ecclesia College in order to enrich Paris, who paid bribes back to the legislators through a company set up by Shelton. Rep. Neal had already pleaded guilty by the time of the indictment and was cooperating with government investigators. On April 4, 2018, before a trial scheduled to begin the following week, Paris also pleaded guilty.
For additional information:
Dungan, Tracie. “4-Year Degrees Widen Bible College’s Range.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 12, 2009, pp. 1B, 8B.
Ecclesia College. http://www.ecollege.edu (accessed February 25, 2016).
Waldon, George. “DOE Visits Another Woe on Ecclesia.” Arkansas Business, August 7–13, 2017, pp. 12–13.
Last Updated 4/4/2018
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