Two days after Saint Leo University and Marymount California University called off plans to merge, the latter institution announced Friday that it would close in August.
“Like other small, tuition-dependent schools, MCU has struggled financially in recent years in the face of declining enrollment, rising costs and a pandemic, which university leaders acknowledged put them in a position of not having the resources needed to support the institution’s operational expenses,” a news release from the university said.
“This is an extremely sad day for Marymount and for the legacy and traditions lost, both for our campus community and the local Palos Verdes area we have called home for more than 50 years,” the release quoted Brian Marcotte, the university’s president, as saying.
Marymount California was founded by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary order in the late 1960s as a two-year institution and began an aggressive push to become a four-year institution with graduate programs in 2010.
Marymount California has seen its enrollment fall by more than half since 2014–15, and it has burned through campus leaders.
Last summer it announced that it would merge into Saint Leo, another Roman Catholic institution located a continent away, in Florida.
But in December, Saint Leo’s accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, rejected its initial plan for the merger. That led the two parties this week to formally call off the merger.
“The parties did not receive regulatory approval as anticipated in December 2021 and, faced with an extended timeline for consummation of the transaction, ultimately decided it was in the best interests of both universities to part ways amicably,” a statement from Saint Leo said.
The closure announcement came late Friday after a vote by Marymount California's board.
“This decision was not made lightly,” Marcotte said. “But we felt the most compassionate thing to do was to give everyone time to make plans. Our focus now will be to help our students, faculty and staff.”
Marymount California is the second small independent institution to announce its closure this spring. Last month, Lincoln College in Illinois said it would close in mid-May, citing the impact of COVID-19 and a cyberattack that thwarted its admissions process as college officials hoped to rebound.
The final weeks of an academic year are often a time when announcements like these emerge, as the enrollment picture for the following fall becomes clear and the numbers don't support the planned expenses.