The Southeast Portland school (still) has no affiliation with Pacific University in Forest Grove.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID F. ASHTON - This Southeast Portland campus, Warner Pacific College, announces it is now accredited as a university — and is cutting tuition rates by about $6,000.The greater Portland area has a new "Pacific University" — Warner Pacific University, to be exact.

Known for decades as Warner Pacific College, the school was established in 1937 as Pacific Bible College, in Spokane, Wash., by the Church of God of Anderson, Ind., a church founded in 1881 by Daniel Sidney Warner.

The school moved to Southeast Portland, at the southern slope of Mount Tabor, three years later. Initially, it occupied a 40-room house at the end of Southeast 68th Avenue north of Division Street, but the lush green campus was gradually expanded over the decades.

Late last month, Warner Pacific College announced a name change — and lower tuition fees.

"Beginning last fall, we started the process of becoming an accredited university," said President Andrea P. Cook.

She explained, "The name 'Warner Pacific University' better encompasses the scope of the programs we now offer, including master's degree programs. … The name change also clarifies the kind of institution we are. With about 35 percent of our students being Latino, using the term 'college' — or 'colegio' in Spanish — indicates a school that offers secondary education, like extended high school, whereas 'universidad' clearly indicates an institution of higher learning."

Despite Warner Pacific's name change, it has no affiliation with Pacific University in Forest Grove — the two schools are entirely separate institutions.

Tuition and fees cut

Tuition and fees at Warner Pacific for the 2017-18 academic year are $24,500. Beginning in the fall semester, tuition and fees will be cut to $18,660, making Warner Pacific the most affordable private college or university in Oregon, according to Dale Seipp Jr., the school's vice president for enrollment and marketing.

"When considering how we could better serve the students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, we believed that removing some of the 'sticker price barrier' of attending college was very important," Seipp said.

While most of the school's revenue comes from students' tuition and fees, Warner Pacific's affiliated church also provides some financial support to the university's operation.

"We do not require students to sign any testaments of faith here," Seipp said. "Warner Pacific welcomes students from a wide variety of backgrounds and faith experiences. We only ask that our students be open, exploring, and understanding."

That philosophy is similar to Forest Grove's Pacific University, although unlike Warner Pacific, Pacific does not identify itself as a Christian institution.

Pacific was founded by members of what is now the United Church of Christ. Although officially independent, the university is a member of the UCC Council of Higher Learning, and Forest Grove United Church of Christ is located just across College Way from the campus.

Like Warner Pacific in Portland, Pacific is open to students from all religious backgrounds.

Warner Pacific still in 'transition'

Having been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities a few months ago, Warner Pacific is now in the process of officially changing its name.

While Warner Pacific attracts students from around the world, Cook observed that it's "a very local" college, with 75 percent of its students coming from the greater Portland area.

"Because of this local orientation, we've focused on preparing students for the jobs and for their futures in this location, right here in the Pacific Northwest," Cook said.

Though it has been announced, Warner Pacific's name change won't take effect right away.

"It takes a while to transition everything," Cook said. "We will continue to have the college name until we get everything transitioned over the next couple of months."

It will take a few months to change the name on everything from brochures to letterheads — and on the handsome sign along Southeast Division Street at the campus, which is a short distance east of Franklin High School.

Cook said she "feels great" about the change.

"It's also great from the standpoint of the work that we're doing to serve diverse students in our community: Sixty-three percent of our students are from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds, and 57 percent of our students are the very first person in their family ever to go to college," Cook said. "We're providing an education for students that have often had no opportunity to attend college in the past, and filling that need in some very significant ways."

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