Eastern Christian stays with mission in troubled times College-for-sale to merge with accredited Ill. school


Despite the for-sale sign out front, Eastern Christian College in Creswell continues to teach its students to be Bible scholars, missionaries and teachers.

And college officials say that mission will continue, even if the campus has to move once the land where it sits is sold.

The financially strapped college, on Route 543 about a mile from Interstate 95, put its 38-acre property up for sale in June after beginning a merger with a more established, accredited Christian college in Illinois, Lincoln University. The published sale price for the campus is $3.75 million.

Without accreditation of its own, Eastern has struggled with low enrollment for years, relying heavily on contributions from a network of churches.

With no knowledge of when the campus might be sold, in whole or part, administrators are carrying on classes as usual. This semester, 39 full- and part-time students are enrolled.

"The one effort that we are trying to put forth right now is that just because we have a for-sale sign out, we are not closing," said Frank Harris, administrative vice president. "I think right now we are pleased that things have gone rather smoothly for us."

He said Eastern officials want the school to remain in the county.

Founded in New Jersey in 1946 and moved to Harford in 1958, Eastern awards certificates and associate's and bachelor's degrees in Biblical studies with emphases ranging from urban ministry to early childhood education.

Eastern will remain an independent school, but eventually will offer a full slate of Lincoln's courses, taught by visiting professors from Lincoln and remaining Eastern instructors.

That merger will offer students here accredited courses, meaning the credits will be accepted by institutions offering degrees. Eastern never was accredited by established associations that certify higher education institutions.

Four classes offered by Lincoln University already have been added. Classes are held mostly on evenings and weekends.

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