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It has approximately 2,500 students, and it is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.The university's athletic teams, the Bruins, compete in Division II of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA).In 2008, the university estimated the number of its graduates at 35,000; in 2017, 40,184.During the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the 1920s, Christian evangelist Bob Jones, Sr.grew increasingly concerned about the secularization of higher education and the influence of religious liberalism in denominational colleges.Children of church members were attending college, only to reject the faith of their parents.Jones later recalled that in 1924, his friend William Jennings Bryan had leaned over to him at a Bible conference service in Winona Lake, Indiana, and said, "If schools and colleges do not quit teaching evolution as a fact, we are going to become a nation of atheists." While he himself was not a college graduate, Jones grew determined to found a college, and on September 12, 1927, he opened Bob Jones College in Panama City, with 88 students.Jones said that although he had been averse to naming the school after himself, his friends overcame his reluctance "with the argument that the school would be called by that name because of my connection with it, and to attempt to give it any other name would confuse the people." Bob Jones took no salary from the college and helped support the school with personal savings and income from his evangelistic campaigns. The Florida land boom had peaked in 1925, and a hurricane in September 1926 further reduced land values. Bob Jones College barely survived bankruptcy and its move to Cleveland, Tennessee in 1933.
Nevertheless, Jones's move to Cleveland proved extraordinarily advantageous.Bankrupt at the nadir of the Depression, without a home, and with barely enough money to move its library and office furniture, the college became in thirteen years the largest liberal arts college in Tennessee.With the enactment of GI Bill at the end of World War II, the college was virtually forced to find a new location and build a new campus.Though he had served as Acting President as early as 1934, Jones' son, Bob Jones, Jr.
officially became the school's second president in 1947 just before the college moved to Greenville, South Carolina, and became Bob Jones University.
In Greenville, the university more than doubled in size within two years and started its own radio station, film department, and art gallery—the latter of which eventually became one of the largest collections of religious art in the Western Hemisphere.