Fordham Will Shut Down Marymount

Women's college was absorbed by larger university 5 years ago, but couldn't attract enough students to survive.
October 10, 2005

Fordham University announced Friday that it would shut down Marymount College by June 2007.

Juniors and seniors will be able to graduate, but no new students will be admitted. The university said that it would help faculty members and other employees find new positions and stressed that no positions would be eliminated immediately. But the head of Marymount's faculty union said that it was clear that there were also no guarantees of jobs for anyone after June 2007.

Marymount, a women's college in Tarrytown, N.Y., became part of Fordham in 2000, following years of financial and enrollment worries. (The college is not affiliated with several others that have "Marymount" in their names.) In theory, the merger would provide support for Marymount to grow while increasing Fordham's visibility outside of New York City. While Fordham restructured the college's debt and helped it promote its programs, increases in enrollment at Marymount were modest. The college has 798 students and almost half of freshmen do not return for their sophomore year.

John N. Tognino, chairman of Fordham's board, said that the decision to shut Marymount was "very difficult" and he praised the "supportive environment" that faculty members have created there since the college was founded in 1907.

Fordham officials told Marymount students and faculty members of the decision on Friday, and many students were in tears after the announcement. Rumors had been flying around the campus in recent weeks that a major change was ahead; many thought the announcement was going to be that the college would start admitting men.

Leo Cooley, a professor of English who is president of the faculty union, said that faculty members "had disappointment and some anger" over the announcement. Cooley said that he thought Fordham had made sincere efforts to bolster Marymount, but that the college was hurt because of the relatively small share of female students who want to attend a women's college.

While a number of prestigious women's colleges have been reporting surges in enrollments in recent years, many others have struggled. This fall, three women's colleges -- Immaculata University and Lesley and Wells Colleges -- enrolled their first male freshmen, and all of them reported a healthy impact on applications and on enrollment figures.

Cooley said that it was too early to tell what would happen to faculty members. Fordham's announcement said that after Marymount is shut down, college employees "holding staff positions that are no longer required will have the opportunity to apply for other jobs at the university." Cooley said that his union, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors, would hold talks with Fordham to try to work out the best possibilities for Marymount professors.

The union represents 38 full-time faculty members.

Fordham's attempt to help Marymount survive was not unique; nor was its failure, despite the apparent logic of having a larger, wealthier university absorb a smaller college. In 2001, DePaul University entered into a similar arrangement with Barat College, but by 2004, DePaul announced that Barat could not be sustained. In a somewhat different arrangement, George Washington University in the 1990s paid off the debt of Mount Vernon College in return for control of the college, and when the college could not revive itself financially, it shut down.


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