College students strive for one goal: a degree. Dayspring Bible College and Seminary wants to give them one after they complete its programs. But the suburban Chicago school only issues certificates and diplomas. The Illinois Board of Higher Education forbids Dayspring from offering a “degree” because it doesn’t meet accreditation standards.
Earlier this year, Dayspring and a handful of other Illinois-based Bible colleges filed a federal lawsuit accusing the state board of overstepping the First Amendment and infringing on their rights to free religious exercise and free speech.
The lawsuit argues that the current ban financially hurts unaccredited Bible colleges because it communicates that their education is inferior and thus dissuades prospective students. And if the schools pursued accreditation, which is costly, they would become unaffordable. (According to the lawsuit, Bible colleges generally run 25 to 30 percent of the cost of a liberal arts school.)
Twenty-eight states currently exempt Bible colleges from regulation. One of the most recent states to deregulate was Texas.
In 2007, the state supreme court ruled that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board could not forbid the unaccredited Tyndale Theological Seminary and Bible Institute from calling itself a “seminary” or using words such as degree, bachelor, master, and doctor. Such terms belonged to the church before the government claimed them.
Nearly 30 Bible colleges were established in the decision’s wake. Yet not all similar schools in Texas liked the ruling. B. H. Carroll Theological Institute continued pursuing accreditation in spite of the outcome. Its spokesperson said, “Accountability is a biblical ...