Concordia University to close; class-action suit filed

Education

It's expected the 24-acre campus will be sold after the closure

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Citing “years of mounting financial challenges, and a challenging and changing educational landscape,” Concordia University will cease operations after the Spring 2020 semester.

The Board of Regents approved this Friday night and posted it to their website. Students were alerted by a text message Monday morning before a campus-wide meeting was held at 10 a.m.

“We woke up to a text message at 6 a.m.—a mass message from our school saying, ‘Mandatory meeting at 10 a.m. and all classes are canceled,'” said junior Sami Howard.

Concordia University Interm President Thomas Reis. February 10, 2020 (KOIN)

The decision was due to declining enrollment and financial losses, school leaders said. Tuition alone at the private Lutheran university is more than $30,000 per year.

“Four years ago we were just over 8000 students,” said Interim President Thomas Reis. “Now we’re just over 5000.” He said “the biggest driver” in the enrollment drop is competition and a “challenging online market.”

“It’s just hard because I definitely feel like, with such a small campus like this, a lot of us feel like we can call this place home. And we really built a family here,” said another student in reaction to the news.

There are about 340 full- and part-time employees at Concordia University, including more than 200 faculty members. Students are scrambling to find out where else they can attend in the fall and whether their credits will transfer.

“Sometimes credits are hard to transfer from small liberal arts schools, and that’s what I’m worried about,” said Howard.

It’s a tough break for student-athletes who depend on their scholarships to be able to afford college.

“Our coaches finish up our 2020 class, so now all those people have to find new homes,” said university student Adrianna Rupright. “And all the people who are on the team who still have eligibility left—they still have to find homes.”

Officials are working with accrediting bodies to help current students continue at a new school. Portland State University said it’s working with Concordia to help students. Concordia Law school in Boise, Idaho, is affiliated with the university and is expected to remain open while officials work to find a new university with which to join forces.

Concordia University campus in Northeast Portland. February 10, 2020 (KOIN)

George Fox University offers assistance

George Fox University has announced that the institution will offer aid to any Concordia University students seeking enrollment at the school.

Undergraduate students who transfer to GFU are eligible for a $5,000 automatic grant that can be renewed annually, in addition to other aid already available, according to their website. Application fees will be waived, and students’ existing credits will be accepted. Those wishing to transfer will also go through an expedited application process.

Students in adult degree or graduate programs are also eligible for the expedited application process and the fee waiver. The university said resources are available for students to map out the rest of their education pathways.

Class-Action Lawsuit

Following Monday morning’s announcement of the university’s closure, a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Concordia University students. The documents filed at the Multnomah County Circut Court make two claims against the private school: unlawful trade practices and unjust enrichment.

The lawsuit states:

“Concordia University misled hundreds of students about its financial condition, and collected tuition in 2020 that students would not have paid had the students known the truth about Concordia University’s looming closure. Now many Concordia University students are left unable to graduate and with credits that cannot be directly transferred for credits of equal value at a different university.”

Read the full Class-Action Complaint

The university’s announcement marks the fourth private university closure in the Portland area, including Marylhurst University. Another question yet to be answered is what will happen to the partnership between Concordia and the nearby Faubion Elementary School. The public school will stay open, but there are questions about what will happen to the joint program on campus.

Concordia University, the state’s largest private university, has been in operation since 1905. It’s expected the owners of the property, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, will sell the 24-acre campus, which sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

The last commencement ceremony is set for April 25 for the Portland campus and May 2 for the Concordia University School of Law.

This article was written with contributions from the Associated Press.

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