Ave Maria University will take ownership of a college that was formerly the branch of a Baptist university in Nicaragua. Ave Maria College of the Americas in San Marco, Nicaragua, will move to Immokalee and is expected to function as a campus of the Naples-based Catholic university as of next year, reported Naples Daily News.
With the prospect of becoming a university on the horizon, college president Humberto Belli said school officials are hoping the change will attract more international students, and boost the school's fundraising.
The school offers a bilingual and bicultural experience, but all of the classes at the college are taught in English, and more than 50 percent of the professors come from the United States.
Once the university takes over, the college expects the curriculum will be streamlined and new programs will be offered, such as a pre-theologate program.
When the Baptist university decided to pull out of the college, it began scouting Catholic universities to take it over. Ave Maria University founder Tom Monaghan stepped in and named it a branch campus of Ave Maria in 2000. The purchase was motivated by the goal of preserving the Catholic faith in Latin America, reported Naples Daily News.
When Ave Maria took over in 2000, many of the students seemed to be more agnostic or indifferent to religion. Since then, the spiritual life of the school has been on the upswing and daily mass attendance has grown from five students during the first year to more than 60 students.
About 80 percent of the current students are Catholic and include some religious men and women. There are currently three Franciscan brothers enrolled.
"This is a place for training professionals who have Christian values and can Christianize society," Belli was quoted as saying. "We believe the best contribution to society is to provide the world with a new generation of (Catholics)."