One Small College Will Close; Another Slashes Programs

Hiwassee, in Tennessee, will shut down. Wheeling Jesuit will eliminate all but eight of 30 academic programs and will slash faculty jobs as well.

March 29, 2019
 

Earlier this week, Hiwassee College was on social media promoting events it was holding this spring for newly admitted applicants.

On Thursday, the small Methodist institution in Tennessee announced it would shut down at the end of the semester.

"Growing marketplace trends including substantially discounted or highly subsidized public [higher] education, changes in demographics, our rural location and declining enrollment have combined to produce an unsustainable economic model," the college said in a statement. "Our current full-time equivalent enrollment is 225 students. On May 10, we will celebrate with 33 graduates -- 23 will receive bachelor’s degrees and 10 will earn associate degrees."

The statement also noted the pride of college alumni and others in Hiwassee's 170-year history. "Many of our alumni have pursued additional education to become pastors … teachers in our schools, pharmacists in the region and community leaders across the nation. Hiwassee College’s legacy will survive through those who attended the college and who continue to lead and serve."

Hiwassee was once accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. But the college is among the institutions that -- after getting into trouble with SACS -- sought and received accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Accreditation is crucial for any college that wants its students to be eligible for federal aid.

With Hiwassee's news, three small private colleges will have announced closures this month. The other two are in Vermont: the College of St. Joseph and Southern Vermont College.

Green Mountain College, also in Vermont, announced in January that it will close at the end of the spring semester. Newbury College in Brookline, Mass., announced in December that it would close at the end of this academic year.

Deep Cuts at Wheeling Jesuit

Wheeling Jesuit University, in West Virginia, announced earlier this week that it would remain open, but with deep cuts. The university has not released an official plan for those cuts, but briefed faculty members and local reporters Thursday.

According to WV Metro News (and confirmed in other press reports), the university plans to eliminate 22 of its 30 academic programs and 40 percent of faculty jobs.

The programs that will remain are: doctor of physical therapy, nursing, respiratory therapy, exercise science, psychology, criminal justice, education and business. From the list of currently offered programs on the university's website, it appears that all liberal arts programs -- including English, fine arts, history and political science -- are being eliminated as majors.

Wheeling Jesuit -- with 929 students according to the U.S. Education Department -- is larger than the colleges that have closed this month. But Wheeling Jesuit has been struggling financially for some time. In 2017, to cut costs and get out from under long-term debt, it sold its campus to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. The university will subsequently lease back that campus. In exchange, the diocese paid off the university’s bond debt.

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