Columbia International University

columbia-international-universityColumbia International University (CIU) is a Christian institution of higher education located in Columbia, South Carolina. The school offers undergraduate, graduate and seminary degrees. As a biblical university, CIU is recognized for its emphasis on spiritual growth, biblical authority, and global evangelism. CIU is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education, and by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Through its historically strong Bible and ministry programs, and its expanding number of liberal arts programs, CIU seeks to meet the challenges of the 21st century both in the United States and abroad by producing “professional ministers” such as pastors, and “ministering professionals” such as teachers, psychologists and business professionals.

CIU achieves this through the practice of “total life training” that engages the Head, Heart, and Hands, which they call their “educational triad”: 1) Head = strive for academic excellence with the Bible at the core of all learning; 2) Heart = grow in maturity in Christ; 3) Hands = practice skills related to personal and vocational goals in the community away from the classroom.

CIU prides itself on being a multidenominational institution striving toward evangelical unity. It is not directly affiliated or sponsored by any single denomination, but welcomes all students from any evangelical Christian denomination and somewhat more loosely, any Protestant denomination. While CIU does have enrolled students who are members of Christian communities which would not typically be identified as evangelical Protestant, it does require that all faculty and staff belong to a local Protestant church.


CIU was founded in 1923 as Columbia Bible School. Its original purpose was to provide a two year course of study in biblical studies for local mill workers. By 1927, the school was converted into a college and began offering bachelor’s degrees in Bible at a location in downtown Columbia. The college was relocated in 1960 to its present facility on Monticello Road. In the early 1960s, as the federal government began to mandate the integration of Southern public colleges, CIU was the first white college in South Carolina to voluntarily desegregate. Also during the 1960s, the institution changed its name to Columbia Bible College and Seminary. In 1994, it was renamed Columbia International University to highlight its growing educational mission of preparing students from all parts of the world for global Christian service.


CIU has five colleges: the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Counseling, the College of Education, the College of Intercultural Studies, and the Seminary & School of Ministry. Because of the closely knit nature of the institution and the emphasis on Christian education and biblical studies regardless of major, many of the colleges share faculty members.

Like most other Christian colleges, the traditional academic emphasis is placed on the humanities and liberal arts, with a strong emphasis on ministerial and biblical studies, rather than the natural sciences. The undergraduate division of CIU (formerly known as the Bible College) is the oldest division of the university. All students must take core competency courses in biblical studies as a part of general education requirements.

CIU students can choose from 21 professional majors that prepare them for the ministry or the marketplace. The five most popular undergraduate majors at CIU are Psychology, Teacher Education, Intercultural Studies, Business & Organizational Leadership, and Youth Ministry, Family, & Culture. Other majors include: Bible Teaching, Church Ministry, Communication, Digital Media & Cinema, English, General Studies, Global Business, Global Media, Humanities, International Community Development, Media Arts, Middle Eastern Studies, Music, Philosophy, and Sports Management.

Students may also add a supporting minor, of which CIU offers six specialty minors: Biblical Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Literature, Chaplaincy, Teaching English as a Second Language, and Writing; plus any major is also available as a minor. This enables students to broaden their education portfolios, better preparing them for their career or graduate studies.

Undergraduate Degrees & Certificates

CIU offers a unique program that allows students to complete two degrees in five years: a Bachelor of Arts in Advanced Biblical & Theological Studies, and a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Theology. The program is designed for academically-gifted students with a clear sense of calling to vocational ministry. It allows them to maximize their time and minimize the cost of a theological education without sacrificing the quality of the experience.

Besides four-year Bachelor of Arts degrees, CIU also offers an Associate of Arts degree. In just two years, you will learn the principles of Bible interpretation and gain essential Bible skills. Because the AA degree includes core academic courses in General Education, it lays the foundation for a bachelor’s degree or advancement in a variety of professional fields or ministry.

A Bible Certificate is offered as well, for short term students. The Bible Certificate satisfies the one year of biblical studies required by many mission agencies. The program lays a foundation in basic doctrine, principles for Christian life and ministry, and a biblical worldview. It opens the door for positions in churches, youth ministries, para-church organizations, and various service organizations.

In addition to the classes on campus, CIU offers online degrees and other degrees that are a hybrid of on-campus and online courses. Degrees that can be earned completely online include: Undergraduate Bible Certificate, Graduate Bible and Theology Certificate, Graduate Biblical Ministry Certificate, several Master of Arts degrees, and two Master of Education degrees.

Seminary and Graduate School

The CIU seminary (known as Columbia International University Seminary & School of Ministry) exists for the purpose of training students who desire to pursue a vocation in full or part-time Christian ministry either in a congregational setting, in parachurch organizations, or as a missionary. All teaching faculty must affirm the doctrine of Premillennialism that is officially held by the school.

The Graduate School mainly offers courses leading to terminal degrees in education: an Ed.D. (Doctor of Education), and an Ed.S. (Education Specialist). These advanced degree programs are led by program coordinator Dr. Brian Simmons, author of multiple works on education and former president of Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). There is also a large postgraduate counseling program.

The seminary is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada to award the Master of Divinity, the Master of Arts, and the Doctor of Ministry. The GraduateSchool is also accredited by the South Carolina Department of Education to offer graduate degrees in early childhood and elementary education leading to certification as a teacher in South Carolina.

Student Life

CIU is made up of a diverse community of Christians from many denominational, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Like most evangelical schools and many seminaries, CIU has doctrinal affirmations and lifestyle standards by which all students are expected to abide, such as prohibition from alcohol and tobacco. Students are also required to complete a Spiritual Growth and Self Assessment – a narrative of a student’s spiritual journey during the year.

The seven doctrinal points which students must agree to are: 1) biblical inspiration; 2) natural separation of humanity from God; 3) salvation by grace through faith in Christ; 4) the historical doctrine of the Trinity; 5) the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead; 6) the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer; and 7) the evangelical mandate to witness to the gospel of Christ.

CIU has 18,000 alumni living in 150 countries around the world and working to make an impact for Christ. Wherever God is leading you, CIU can take you there. That includes the chance to study abroad, go on mission trips, and the opportunity for internships. Doing an internship allows you to take the skills you’ve learned in the classrooms into real-world settings. You’ll get to network with people in your field and maybe even transition into a job after you graduate. Many degree programs at CIU actually require internships to graduate.

Homeschool Applicants

Approximately 25% of each incoming class at CIU consists of homeschooled students. The average class at CIU has 20 students, empowering professors to work closely with their students, which homeschoolers will appreciate. All CIU scholarships are open to homeschoolers. In 2009, a homeschooler won the full-ride R.C. McQuilken Schlolarship. The minimum admissions requirements are a 2.0 high school GPA, and a 1290 on the SAT or ACT score of 18. The college also looks at your personal achievements and your walk with God. Be sure to complete the checklist of requirements before applying.


CIU is out in the country and close to town, offering the best of both worlds. The serene, 400-acre wooded campus is adjacent to the Broad River, and just a few miles from the heart of Columbia, South Carolina’s capital city. Notably student-friendly, Columbia offers a wide range of educational, entertainment, and shopping options from eclectic boutiques to major malls. Along with big-time sporting events, gathering spots like coffee shops and a diverse variety of dining and music venues cater to college students.

All single undergraduate students under 23 years old are required to live on campus. Athletic and fitness opportunities, as well as extracurricular activities and student organizations from the formal to the casual, are all available on campus. Meanwhile, outdoorsy types can take advantage of the paddling, boating, fishing, hiking and camping available at the rivers, lakes, state parks and forests of central South Carolina. CIU is also just a couple hours’ drive from mountains and beaches!

columbia-international-university-aerial-viewAerial view of the Columbia International University campus

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