By Courtney Phillips
Shrouded by the towering pines of McPherson Church Road, the unassuming, white one-story Carolina College of Biblical Studies sits on 2.5 acres of prime Fayetteville real estate. By 2020, the college will step boldly from the shadows with a $2 million dollar interior and exterior renovation that will increase the size of the college to an impressive 13,500 square feet. “It’s inauspicious,” laughed Bill Boyd, the College’s Vice President for Strategic Development, as he described the current appearance of the building. “It hides the power of the impact.”
“It’s time for the exterior to match what is going on inside,” he said, as he unveiled the plan for improvements, which will utilize the building’s existing 7,500 square foot structure and expand in a linear design along the property. A fully-bricked exterior and a modern grey metal roof will bring together the current building with the new structure, to include two or three new classrooms, a more spacious library, additional offices and a new auditorium.
“One of the main reasons we are expanding is that, really, we are cramped. Books shouldn’t be all the way up here,” said Bill Korver, CCBS President, as he extended an arm to reach the top shelf of bookcase in the small library. “Currently, we have no place for students to just sit down, relax and study. The new library will be three or four times this size.” Of the new square footage, the library will account for nearly half.
Meeting the Need
The Cape Fear School of Theology was established in 1973 by local pastor Dr. William Owens. Since moving to the current location in 1980, the institution, which was renamed Carolina Bible College and finally, Carolina College of Biblical Studies, has quietly forwarded its mission to “disciple Christ-followers, through biblical higher education, for a lifetime of effective servant leadership.” From a history of steady, modest enrollment came an enrollment boom in 2013 when the College was granted accreditation by the Association for Biblical Higher Education and was approved to offer online degree programs.
While its rise in popularity is directly attributed to accreditation, the financial aid opportunities that accompanied accreditation put the college “on the map.” “Four years ago, someone who struggled financially would have to scrape together $300 per class and pay all expenses out-of-pocket, but if you’re struggling to pay the light bill anyway, $300 for a class isn’t going to happen. With accreditation came Title IV fund participation and Pell grants. With those in place, students may still struggle financially, but the reality, now, is that you can take four classes, be a full-time student and because our costs are so low, it’s free,” said Korver.
In the past five years, enrollment has risen by 63 percent and the number of courses taken has increased 109 percent. Nearly 60 percent of current enrollees have some affiliation with the military, whether they are active duty, dependents or veterans.
“The GI Bill only pays for so much every credit hour, and we don’t want that to be an issue,” said Korver, of the decision to offer a military discount.
Also critical for military personnel is flexibility, which is offered through the online degree program at the College. “We understand the frustration that, if a soldier comes here and studies for two or three quarters and gets deployed or changes duty stations, they can’t finish. But online, you can finish anywhere on planet Earth,” said Korver.
Cumulatively, more than 5,000 people have taken courses at the College since 1973. While the non-denominational institution has served students of more than 20 denominations, the three most common are Southern Baptist, Missionary Baptist and African Methodist Episcopal (AME). “At this time, we have 40 graduate pastors within 50 miles, who are preaching every Sunday. You can imagine the impact when that number gets closer to 100,” said Boyd.
Meeting the broad base of interests and student goals, the College currently offers a Bachelor of Arts and Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies. Online, students can major in Biblical Studies or Leadership & Ministry. Both are offered at bachelor and associate level. “Almost every student is deeply interested in ministry,” said Boyd, of the 300 current enrollees.
By 2020, the College estimates that it will confer degrees on least 50 students per year, whose goal will be to launch and lead ministries worldwide. In addition to fostering the development of its fair share of pastors, the College is an often-used resource for laypeople of local ministry. Youth pastors, Sunday school teachers, bible study leaders and volunteers of local humanitarian non-profit ministries enrich their education and gain the skills necessary to serve others.
“There’s a huge chunk of students who want to be able to teach Sunday school effectively, who want to be effective deacons or elders in a church and want to see God use them somehow. They don’t want to just end life and never have a ripple for the Kingdom of God. They want to make an impact,” said Boyd.
Within the last two years, the College has integrated five minors into course offerings, which administrators hope will become majors as enrollment increases.
“I’ve been in public education all my life. One thing I like about this place is that we are able to talk with students to see what they need, and we try to supply them with those things,” said Harry Ghee, the College’s Academic Dean, who spent his career in student affairs, finance and administration at contrastingly larger institutions, Elizabeth City State and Fayetteville State.
The most popular minor in the College is Biblical Counseling, whereby students are given a comprehensive education in diagnosing interpersonal difficulty using the Word of God so that they may confidently address marriage, family and other common counseling problems with a biblical framework.
Apologetics, another popular minor, is designed to help students provide a rational defense of faith. Particularly popular with pastors and church leaders who seek advanced skills in evangelism and engaging popular culture, the minor features courses in logic, critical thinking and hermeneutics, which is the philosophy and methodology of text interpretation.
For the student interested in the study of the Bible through its original languages, CCBS offers a Biblical Languages minor, in which both biblical Hebrew and Kione Greek (also referred to as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic or Hellenistic Greek) are taught with a study of grammar and syntax.
Other minors include Christian Education, for individuals who want to teach, Intercultural Studies and Pastoral Ministries.
Currently, about 30 percent of CCBS graduates go on to pursue graduate-level degrees. “Our goal, as we offer more and more degrees, is that we will attract more and more students. If you only have two degree programs, you’ll only get a certain amount of students. Our hope is that, within the next two or three years, we will start a graduate school,” said Korver.
The progress toward graduate-level courses hinges on expertly-credentialed faculty and enhanced offerings in the library. “You have to provide a library that supports your degree program. If you have to buy 10,000 books, it’ll be a couple hundred thousand dollars,” said Korver.
“We will move in debt-free. We have a no debt policy,” said Boyd, as he described the funds left to raise, which currently total $400,000. A group of three core donors from Denver, Colorado and Houston, Texas, who, Boyd said, “have a vision for this kind of ministry,” have agreed to fund $1.5 million dollars of the expansion. The College is dependent upon local donors to contribute the remainder.
Noting that there are incentives for giving, like naming opportunities, Boyd finds the most success in simply explaining the impact of the gift. “God is doing miraculous things, here. The leverage of an investment of this nature is enormous. You get a great general education here, but it comes with a biblical mindset. Yes, you get all of the core subjects, but imagine how they are enriched by the Bible. It makes all the difference in the world,” he said.
With expanded course offerings, talk of graduate-level degrees and a brand-new facility, the interest of the average Fayetteville resident might be. . . piqued.
“There is a fair number of students who, when you ask about their plans after graduation, they’ll say, ‘Well, I just want to learn. I don’t want to become a pastor or do this vocationally,’” said Korver.
Since courses are arranged quarterly, rather than only two semesters per year, there are many opportunities to “jump in” and try a class. The most popular class among amateurs is How to Study the Bible, which has been conducted through the College for 40 years. Offered online for a duration of five weeks or on campus for 11 weeks, the class focuses on how to study, interpret and apply Scripture to daily life. It is a tuition-free class and the textbook fees are paid for by the College. The student absorbs only a $60 processing fee, but should be prepared to work.
“Because it’s a methods class, you don’t learn to study the Bible by listening to me. It’s like riding a bike. It’s the ‘Crash and Burn method,’” laughed Korver, who teaches the class. “We do have homework in that one,” he cautioned good-naturedly.
If you want to pursue a career in ministry or enhance your relationship with the Bible, call the College, find them on Facebook, or visit their website, www.ccbs.edu. For questions about contributing to the expansion, Bill Boyd chuckled and suggested, in a manner illustrative of the friendly, close-knit nature of the College’s learning environment, “Call my telephone number and I will expand at great length. If you’re really interested, I’ll set you up with lunch with the President.”