ELIZABETH A. CONKEY
BENNINGTON -- The much anticipated Northeastern Baptist College is finally up and running at 104 Kocher Drive in Bennington, on the third and fourth floors of the Grace Christian School, after years of planning and construction.
According to college President Mark Ballard, students began classes on Aug. 27.
Currently, the college has a total enrollment of 16 students, with 14 faculty members, including both professors and adjunct professors.
However, Ballard said about 40 students will be auditing classes starting next week, which will boost their student body above the average for colleges similar to his.
"We're excited about that," Ballard said.
Ballard hopes for enrollment upwards of 100 students in future years.
The NEBC campus is warm but unconventional, with its 20,000-square-foot headquarters and chapel on Kocher Drive, and its 10,000-square-foot library facility on Main Street, about two miles away, in the former Paradise Restaurant building.
According to Ballard, the college does not currently include dormitories for its students, but plans to amend this in the future.
"We have plans for dorms down the road, but we're just not there yet," he said. "Plus, a lot of our students commute anyway."
The college was first organized by a New Hampshire-based non-profit, Project Launch 13, which was spearheaded by Ballard in October 2009.
Many may wonder why Ballard chose Vermont of all states in which to open a Christian-centered learning institution, more specifically a Baptist one.
In fact, an early 2011 Gallup survey revealed Vermont to be the least religious state in the country.
Ballard noted that he and his fellow board members looked at around 150 potential sites for the college throughout the New England area before finally deciding to collaborate and share space with Grace Christian School.
"We felt that God really led us to Bennington in a lot of ways," he said. "I see this as a great partnership."
In the line of academics, Ballard says the college currently offers bachelor of arts programs for its students including Biblical studies with concentrations in pastoral work, church planning, entrepreneurial leadership, and creative writing, as well as a BA program in music, with a concentration in worship leadership.
Ballard hopes to add a BA in Biblical education to the college's list of programs in the future.
According to the college's website, the mission of NEBC is "to impact New England, the United States, and the World by training students to have The Mind of a Scholar, The Heart of a Shepherd, and The Perseverance of a Soldier."
Ballard explained that although the college is affiliated with the Baptist church, it is not actually owned by any particicular church or religious organization, and noted his appreciation of the Green Mountain Baptist Association and the Baptist Convention of New England for their support during the college's planning period.
To learn more about the Northeastern Baptist College located at 104 Kocher Drive in Bennington, visit www.nebcvt.org, find them on Facebook, or call 802-753-7233.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @bethconkey.