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 a self-perpetuating board comprised of 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. York's most recent reaffirmation accreditation visit took place in February 2014. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
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 by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) for its commitment to a program that builds character in the context of competition. The York College Panthers have competed in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) since 2015. 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 Department of Education has earned several external endorsements. 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. Of equal significance for students, York College's Teacher Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). 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.
York College Online was launched in 2010 to expand the reach of the school. The majority of YC Online students are enrolled in one of the school's graduate programs. Recent fall enrollments average around 650 students with about 450 studying on campus and another 200 enrolled in online classes. Students attending York come from about 30 states and several countries.
The school's physical property has seen steady expansion with a series of projects involving new construction or major renovation since the late 1990s. 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. A park-like atmosphere bordered by a neighborhood of century-old houses and brick streets provides a classic collegiate setting.
During the inauguration of Dr. Sam Smith as the college's twenty-first president, it was announced that the institution will transition from York College to York University in the summer of 2022. After lengthy consideration, the school's governing board approved the name change on January 15, 2021, during their winter meeting. See more details about the name change.
The college's 7,500 alumni reside in every state and several countries. As has been the case from its founding, the continuing 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
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