Bryan ends relationship with Saints’ Bible Institute

Written by: Nathan Ecarma, Editor-in-Chief

The Provost discontinued the formal relationship between Bryan College and Saints’ Bible Institute of San Lorenzo, Italy on February 21 because of what Ray Legg called a “weird confluence of forces.” Those forces include a lack of participation by students, a transition of leadership at SBI and an ineffective use of the College’s resources.

When Provost Doug Mann came to Bryan, Legg said he was responsible to examine the education system for effectiveness. As enrollment has steadily declined for the last several years, it stopped making sense for Bryan to be the School of Record for Saints, that is, the school who runs the accreditation. “We always wondered what would happen when only one student signed up,” Legg said.

From 2016 to present, 8 students have studied with SBI. Legg’s initial goal was 10 students a semester. When Legg started, 15-20 students attended, but now it has dipped to three per semester and now one student. “The last time I was there, I only had two students in my class,” he said.

Even with its inefficiencies, Legg described how formational studying abroad is for the student. “Personally, I wish every student would do it.” When students would return, he would ask them if he oversold it; they would respond that, no, in fact, he had undersold it.

But not everyone could take the opportunity such as athletes who played and practiced on and off season. With the nature of Bryan’s relationship with Saints, the College couldn’t seek many other opportunities like short term trips. “Part of the decision was ‘is this the best thing for our students?’” Legg said.

The faculty taught courses with only a couple students. “On one level it’s nice, but it’s a little harder to teach a class of 2-3 than 25. It’s a little more of a challenge to get life infused in those [classes] like it would be if you had 20-25 students.”

Bryan bore the cost of flying the faculty to Italy, only for them to teach a couple students. Mann said, “to teach the one student or two students isn’t the most efficient.”

“We have to get better,” Mann said. “Part of that process is ending that relationship with Saints and pivoting in a different direction. And that’s what we’ve done. It’s taken a good 6 or 8 months of study.”

“What I found was that the administration and support system was not as strong as I would like,” Mann said. “Great people, but I have become concerned about the administrative support piece.”

The decision was not necessarily about Saints, Mann said. “Saints is designed in a very particular way, in a way that worked eight or nine years ago. I think study abroad has pivoted.” More students choose dual-enrollment, coming with in general education credit, and so a program that offers general education is not as appealing. A student could go, but to only get six credit hours, instead of 16, would not make sense.

“Saints could pivot, and they could develop,” Mann said. “But we had to take that step forward.”

Saints can still recruit from Bryan’s campus, and “if a student wants to go study at Saints Bible Institute, they can,” Mann said. But the formal relationship has discontinued.

Saints will have to figure out the accreditation process with Bryan stepping out. “We were the ones who did transcripts for classes, so I’m not sure what this means,” Legg said. “They’ll have to find someone else.” He offered a possibility: “Maybe every school who sends someone will transcript their own classes instead of having students enroll at Bryan as visiting students and then we transcript their classes and send the grades back to the classes.” He has not been a part of those discussions, but he explained that those are some ways that they could.

Even though the SBI relationship is over, Bryan will look for other opportunities. “By next fall, I want to be up and running, presenting opportunities to students, both short term and long term,” Mann said. His background is in study abroad, having overseen at previous schools their programs for three years. “I have led study abroad trips around the world,” he said. “I have been to the Philippines, to Greece, to Europe, and I led students on all of those. I have taken 80 students from Rome to Athens.”

Bryan, said Mann, will be looking for opportunities, particularly short-term trips like England or Scotland, where students could study something like English Literature or European history. “I want to acknowledge that it is a great experience,” Mann said. “Study abroad is something I am keenly interested in.”

The relationship between Bryan and Saints has lasted almost a decade, and Saints will continue to recruit to this program from Bryan.


Author’s Note: Photo credit is to Abigail Brown. 

Nathan Ecarma studies Bible, culture, and language. He is a senior.