York College was founded on August 26, 1890, by the United Brethren Church in conjunction with York citizens who wanted a church-related college. In 1946, a merger with the Evangelical Church resulted in control of the college passing to the newly-formed Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Church. In 1954, that body decided to transfer its support to another EUB institution, Westmar University in LeMars, Iowa. An agreement had existed from the school's beginning that control of the school would pass to the City of York should the governing body ever decide to close the college. Because of this, the city took control of the property, and the corporate structure, which has remained continuous since 1890, was transferred to members of the churches of Christ in 1956. The new administration reopened York College in fall 1956 as a senior college with 89 students. After two years, the administration recommended that York College focus on associate degree programs, cease offering the baccalaureate program, and work toward accreditation with the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). In 1970, NCA awarded accreditation to York College, the first junior college in Nebraska to receive that distinction.
In 1988, York College began the transition to senior college status with the strong support of both the York community and church constituencies. The important first step came in 1989 when the North Central Association granted its approval for the College to award the Bachelor of Arts Degree with majors in Biblical Studies and Religious Studies. Approval of other programs in several branches of the arts, science, business, education and pre-professional pursuits soon followed. The college gained accreditation as a senior college in 1994.
From the first days of reopening, the college has had a strong focus in Christian mission work demonstrated by ongoing outreach by individuals, informal groups and official college sponsored programs. Major programs have included the Master's Apprentice Program (1960s through ~2005) and more recently in a strong partnership with Let's Start Talking ministries that involve outreach around the globe. On campus, this focus is demonstrated in a strong campus ministry, daily chapel, and multiple service projects.
Building on a long tradition of collegiate competition, York College quickly reintroduced basketball in 1957. By the end of its first decade, the new college had added programs in soccer, track and field, tennis and baseball. Women's sports and additional team sports have been added throughout the college's history. In recent years, the college has been consistently recognized in the NAIA for its commitment to an athletic's program that builds character in the context of competition. A cappella music is a defining characteristic of churches of Christ and has proven to be a major influence on the college's tradition of daily chapel. For the public, this influence is most apparent in the college's Concert Choir. The choir has traveled extensively throughout its history including recent international trips and performances at major venues. With the Concert Choir as its flagship, the performing arts have developed a strong reputation. Outreach to patrons, churches, area schools and young audiences have solidified the value of the program for many audiences and the strength of the student experience.
Since receiving four-year accreditation, the college's Education Unit has emerged as the largest and most respected program on campus. The State of Nebraska approved the Teacher Education programs in 1994, the first new approval in more than half a century. That same year, the State Board of Education granted continuing approval to York College's Teacher Education programs for the five year maximum. In 2011, building on this strength, the college initiated its first graduate offering with a master's in education (instruction and curriculum development). This online program has been designed to meet the needs of full-time educators.
During the college's most recent accreditation visit (2003), the Higher Learning Commission (a Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools) granted York College the maximum 10 year accreditation. Two years later York College's Teacher Education program received national accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
In recent developments, the college launched York College Online in 2010 to expand the reach of the school with special focus on non-traditional students. The college has grown from only four major buildings in 1956, to a campus of 17 major facilities on 50 acres that serve the needs of a growing student body. Fall enrollment is typically between 400 and 500 students, coming from about 30 states and several countries. The college's 7,500 alumni reside in every state and several countries. As has been the case from its founding, the focus of the college is to transform lives through Christ-centered education and prepare each student for a life of service to God, family and society.
Read Dale Larsen's 1966 dissertation: A History of York College