Stretching across the United States, from Florida to Washington, and around the world, from the shores of Puerto Rico to the Korean peninsula, Presbyterian-related colleges and universities are serving more than 140,000 students.
Learning…to make a Difference
Faith isn’t a “one size fits all” concept, and neither is college. That’s why Presbyterian-related colleges and universities offer more than 50 ways to approach academic excellence, spiritual growth, and personal development. However, they are all bound by a shared commitment to access, equity and affordability that enables students from all backgrounds to be well-served. This is of paramount importance when you consider that nearly 60% of the 140,000 students being served are the first in their families to attend college, 48% are from families with challenging socioeconomic circumstances, and 34% are from underrepresented minority groups.
Some are in big cities, others are in small towns. Some are progressive in their thinking, while others are more conservative. Their cultures range from preppy to bohemian. While some may enroll several thousand students, others serve just a few hundred. The bottom line: Presbyterian-related colleges and universities represent a broad range of social, academic, and spiritual communities but share a strong commitment to learning, faith—and especially service.
We are schools, not churches—so learning comes first. But Presbyterian-related colleges and universities endeavor to educate whole persons for the whole world. In doing so, they strive to graduate individuals who are not only academically well-prepared, but ready to make a difference in the world.
The Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities
Grounded in Faith. Driven by Discovery.
The Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities (APCU) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the support and advancement of Presbyterian-related colleges and universities. Our 54 member institutions have found 54 distinct ways to build on their Presbyterian heritage as they seek to impact their students (and the world) in remarkable ways. The result is a broad set of academic, social, and spiritual opportunities available across a diverse array of geographic settings that stretch across the continent.
On behalf of its membership, the APCU:
- Advocates for the importance of higher education within/across the agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
- Serves as a resource on market trends, institutional advancement strategy, church doctrine, and legislative activity.
- Assists presidents in the development of strategies, models, and tactics that advance institutional missions.
- Creates/maintains strategic partnerships that enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of member institutions.
- Administers programs and services that strengthen and distinguish member institutions.
- Raises funds to develop leaders, equip chaplains, and support students.
Support for Presbyterian-related Colleges & Universities
The APCU has established the Fund for Presbyterian Higher Education. Dollars from the Fund will be used to develop leaders, equip chaplains, and support students through the initiatives described below. We are seeking support from individual donors, family foundations, and national endowments to make this happen and hope that you will prayerfully consider supporting the Fund.
Supporting Students. The APCU is committed to supporting students through two programs that help to make our schools and our sponsored academic programs more accessible:
- The APCU Student Fund: Our members currently commit more than $1.2 billion in institutional dollars each year to support they students they enroll. This funding helps to reduce the average cost of attending an APCU school to less than $22,000 per-year. However, $22,000 is still a lot of money for the majority of families we serve. The APCU Student Fund will help to further reduce this cost while creating scholarship and grant options that target Presbyterian high school youth—particularly minorities and those who will be the first in their families to attend college.
- The Tahoe Semester: The APCU recently launched an environmentally-focused study away program that is based at the Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center on Lake Tahoe. The Tahoe Semester program is open to students at all 54 APCU schools and explores environmental issues through classroom and co-curricular experiences. To honor our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the APCU is seeking sponsors who are able to support the participation of students from low-income and underrepresented minority groups at a cost of $16,000 per-student for the semester.
APCU Organizational Information
The APCU is governed by a board of directors consisting of presidents from 12 member institutions, the president of the Presbyterian College Chaplains Association (PCCA), the executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and the executive director of the APCU. Board members serve three-year terms which can be extended for an additional three years. In 2016, the APCU expanded its membership to include chaplains who are members of the PCCA. This was done to strengthen the relationship between the APCU and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and to assist APCU members with the development of an appropriate spiritual/faith climate on their respective campuses. While the work being done by the PCCA is fairly independent from the work being done by the APCU, the chaplains and presidents meet every three years to discuss opportunities and challenges associated with our Presbyterian-relatedness and the role of spirituality and faith across our campuses.
The presidents of APCU member schools serve as institutional representatives and have the authority to vote on behalf of their respective schools at an annual Members’ Meeting. The Members’ Meeting takes place in the context of an annual Presidents’ Retreat which is usually held in March. The work of the APCU is supported primarily from annual dues paid by member institutions. Dues are based on a formula that considers each institution’s full-time enrollment, annual operating budget, and endowment. Additional funding comes from APCU strategic partners (vendors), foundations, and special solicitations in support of specific APCU projects.
The APCU maintains a renewable covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This covenant defines how the APCU and the PMA will support each other to further the mission of APCU member institutions and the church’s historical commitment to higher education. For a copy of the covenant, contact the APCU office.
In addition, most APCU member institutions maintain independent covenants with an agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), such as a synod or presbytery, or with the APCU. These covenants, which express mutual support, vary widely and typically have a 10-year duration. One excellent example can be found on the Eckerd College website.
The Presbyterian commitment to higher education can be traced back to the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe, and specifically to the theologian John Calvin. Trained as a lawyer, Calvin placed great emphasis on the importance of education as a vehicle for reforming the church. In addition to laying the foundation for what would eventually become the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), he also established the Geneva Academy in Switzerland to educate the poor in the liberal arts and sciences. The Academy would later evolve into the University of Geneva.
In the United States, the Presbyterian emphasis on higher education dates to the early 1700s and the founding of the College of New Jersey, later to become Princeton University. Presbyterian missionaries and pastors continued to spread across the emerging nation establishing churches, schools and colleges. By the start of the Civil War, Presbyterians had founded over a fourth of all the colleges in the United States.
Today, 54 colleges and universities continue to emphasize their historical relationship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through membership in the APCU. These institutions are, and always have been, a diverse group. However, they are bound by a shared commitment to learning, faith, and service; and by the value they place on connections to each other, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the world—honoring the dignity and worth of every person.
This order is important.
We are schools, not churches, and our primary mission is education. Therefore, learning comes first. Nevertheless, as church-related institutions we endeavor to educate whole people for the whole world. As a result, we strive to graduate students who are not only academically well-prepared, but also spiritually and socially mature participants in the religious and civic communities of which they are a part.
We value our relationships with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and with each other. We are not, and do not wish to be, identical institutions, yet we appreciate our common connections and commitments. We benefit from our mutual relationships and are grateful for the historic and ongoing support of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—which we are committed to maintaining.
Our connection to the world is both social and environmental. We seek to serve the whole world through our service to each student. We understand ourselves to be part of a global community of teaching, learning, and inquiry. We also work to exhibit, embody and encourage environmental responsibility on our campuses and beyond. As was stated above, we strive to educate whole people for the whole world.
Our efforts to live out our commitment to learning, faith, service, and connection take place in the context of our ongoing and pervasive commitment to honor the dignity and worth of each and every person. Our schools are resources and instruments through which the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) serves the world as we serve each of our students in all their magnificent variety and particularity!
Adapted from a February 2013 statement by The Presbyterian College Chaplains Association
Jeffrey E. Arnold | Executive Director
Jeff has been the executive director of the APCU since April 2015, previously serving as the vice president for business strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a higher education marketing services firm. In a career spanning more than 37 years, Jeff has also served as chief financial officer for 422 Group/Admissions Lab, a technology and consulting firm focused on enrollment management, as the executive director for higher education marketing at The College Board, and as a senior administrator at several universities. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University and a Master’s of Education in adult and continuing education from The Pennsylvania State University. An ordained ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jeff is a member of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church in Johns Creek, Georgia.
Janna Wofford | Operations Manager
Janna joined the APCU staff in June 2015. She previously served as the office manager for the Atlanta office of Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Prior to that, Janna was the office administrator and human resources manager for 422 Group/Admissions Lab. She has a bachelor’s degree from McMurry University and a master’s degree from the Teachers College at Columbia University.
Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities
C/o Agnes Scott College, Box 1102
141 E College Avenue
Decatur, Georgia 30030