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Pensacola christian college

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The following is an excerpt from a thread in an online homeschool forum regarding Pensacola Christian College:

I am a home-school graduate and I would like to warn the members of this board about Pensacola Christian College and ABeka Books. My parents home-schooled me using the ABeka curriculum and it was through ABeka that I learned of PCC. The ABeka curriculum does prepare students well for standardized tests and ABeka’s reading program for kindergarten through third grade is particularly good. There is nothing inherently wrong with the curriculum; what is wrong is the college that publishes it. My mother no longer buys ABeka books because of what I have told her.

I went to PCC in 2000, at the age of 16, and graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English in 2003. I went to Dallas Theological seminary for one year after that, and then went to St. John’s College in Maryland where I finished a Master’s in Liberal Arts in 2006. I am currently working as an editor in China, and I have been accepted to begin a PhD program in English literature at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland this fall. Perhaps I should also mention that I am no longer a Christian. I hope that will not bias your opinion of what I am about to write; PCC was a major reason for my loss of faith. I now believe PCC is a cult. This is not just an extreme statement; I have written out how PCC has all these characteristics, and if you are interested, I can send you my analysis later.

Before I went to PCC, a couple of people tried to warn me about it, and I refused to listen. I was excited about leaving home and PCC was the only school “away” from home that my parents would allow me to attend at 16. They didn’t know all the facts about it any more than I did. Here I want to explain what makes PCC so attractive and the truth that they won’t tell you:

PCC says: Attend College for half the cost of other Christian colleges

This is quite true. I haven’t found any other college as cheap as PCC. The low cost seems to be the best thing they have going for them. I graduated with no debt. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. The school is unaccredited and it is nearly impossible to transfer to another school. I have heard from other students who had difficulty being accepted at other institutions for graduate school. Accreditation also affects students’ eligibility for scholarships for graduate school. For example, the Marshall scholarship which provides a full scholarship for two years of postgraduate study in the UK requires that applicants have a degree from an accredited university.

PCC says: Catch the Spirit!

What spirit? The spirit of suspicion and paranoia? Everywhere there are spies, watching for minor infractions like not wearing panty hose or having a skirt slightly above the knees. Some girls even go to the mall on weekends just to sit and watch to see if they can catch someone doing something wrong. Students are rewarded for turning each other in. The letter of the law is all that is important. Sermons emphasize absolute obedience with little concern for what is really in people’s hearts. If you go to PCC just for a visit, you may think the students are friendly and welcoming. I am not saying that everyone is a malicious tattle-tale, but the picture given to visitors is not a picture of everyday campus life. At chapel before College Days, students are constantly told to smile and make a good impression on visitors. I saw a floorleader go up to a visitor that she thought she recognized as a student and start yelling at her for having a skirt a fraction of an inch too short. The floorleader was severely reprimanded for treating a visitor this way.

PCC says: The beautiful beaches are less than half an hour away

This is true, but they do not say that one must get a special pass to go to the beach, and that one must be in a group of at least five people, one of whom must be an APL (Assistant Prayer Leader; they have quite a hierarchy there: each room has an APL, every four rooms has a PL, and every floor has a floor leader). The evening my mom dropped me off, we went to a really nice beach, but I never went to that beach again because it turned out to be a forbidden one. Because of my class and work schedule and the difficulty of finding such a large group to go with, I only went to the beach three times the whole time I was there.

PCC says: This college is great for home-schoolers

It is true that home-schoolers generally come from stricter homes and have less difficulty adapting to the rules than students from other backgrounds. The PCC administration says that students who are against the school just don’t like keeping rules. I was very good at keeping the rules, however, even though most of them were rather ridiculous. It was the constant surveillance that bothered me. When students register, they are required to sign a paper promising not to sue the school for anything and allowing the school to read their personal mail and to go through their drawers and computer files. Now that I think about it, opening someone’s mail is illegal and as I was a minor at the time, I think I probably should have had to get my parents’ permission before waiving the right to keep my personal mail private. Don’t expect to have your children visit you on Thanksgiving. PCC has only Thanksgiving Day itself off and has required activities for students all day long. Only juniors and seniors are allowed to visit their families on Thanksgiving and that is only if their parents live less than 200 miles away. There is no spring break, only a week-long Bible conference with five required church services a day. While I was a student, there were many things that I wouldn’t tell my mother because I didn’t want her to worry about me. The college said that all their policies were for the students’ own good and even though I disagreed with them, I was afraid that perhaps the college was somehow right. In Bible classes, I was required to read Touch Not the Unclean Thing (a book on why the KJV is the only right version of the Bible) three times and I went home trying to convince my relatives that the book was right. I stayed at PCC and worked over the summer, and my family came to visit the first summer I was there. My siblings were very surprised that their “fun” big sister would not go swimming in the hotel pool with them for fear of being seen in a bathing suit by a man.

PCC says: The work assistance program is a great experience

While I personally did not have a bad experience since I was fortunate enough to be assigned to the library, many others did. Students have no choice about where they are assigned to work, and working off campus is not an option for female students. Students do not get the experience of applying for and being interviewed for jobs; they are assigned at the whim of the college and are not allowed to change their jobs. One reason the college is so cheap is that it makes a great deal of money from ABeka books. ABeka employs nearly all student employees and pays them all minimum wage. In the summer, the pay is slightly higher, $7.50 per hour, because it would be difficult to get anyone to work for minimum wage in the summer when they could get more at home. Some students are forced to work all night in the print shop. Others are assigned to the distribution center even if they are not suited to hard labor. Sometimes students are injured and forced to go back to work anyway. I knew someone who was told he had only a sprain by college clinic, but later had to go to the hospital because he really had a broken bone.

I believe PCC is dangerous and don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through. While I was there, I tried to help in recruiting students because they promised a mixed-group outing to a hockey game, an IMAX show and a restaurant to the students who could get the most people to fill out information-request-cards over Christmas break. My family is featured in the chapter “Accelerated Learning” in the book Real Life Homeschooling by Rhonda Barfield (Simon and Schuster, 2002). I was a freshman at the time and spoke positively of PCC. Now I would not recommend the school to anyone and hope anyone considering attending will think twice.


Susan Swier

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