Author Topic: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year  (Read 42773 times)

Harry Edmon

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Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« on: February 10, 2020, 01:32:58 PM »
From https://www.cu-portland.edu/closure:

February 10, 2020—Portland, Ore.—Concordia University - Portland’s Board of Regents has voted that the University will cease operations at the end of the Spring 2020 academic semester. The resolution was approved February 7, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. PST. The Board’s decision came after years of mounting financial challenges, and a challenging and changing educational landscape.

“After much prayer and consideration of all options to continue Concordia University - Portland’s 115-year legacy, the Board of Regents concluded that the university’s current and projected enrollment and finances make it impossible to  continue its educational mission,” said Interim President Dr. Thomas Ries. “We have come to the decision this is in the best interest of our students, faculty, staff and partners.”

April 25, 2020 will mark the last commencement ceremony at the Concordia University - Portland campus. May 2, 2020 will mark the commencement ceremony for the graduating class of Concordia University School of Law. The Board made this decision to prioritize the well-being of students, faculty, and staff and fulfill its fiduciary obligations. In the Board’s best judgment, a thoughtful and orderly closure process offers the best possible outcome for all affected parties.

Throughout this process, students, faculty and staff will remain the top priority. The University is in active discussions with our accrediting bodies to provide our students the opportunity to continue their educational journey under the guidance of new institutions that fit their needs and can help faculty and staff transition to the next phase of their professional lives.

The Northeast Portland campus has been a part of the Portland community for more than a hundred years. Upon closure, the University will return the Northeast property to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and one of the lenders, the Lutheran Church Extension Fund. It is expected they will seek a buyer for the 24-acre campus property.

As soon as more information is known, it will be shared.
Harry Edmon, Ph.D., LCMS Layman

D. Engebretson

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2020, 01:55:32 PM »
I am sorry to hear this. It marks the third synodical school to close in my time (St. John's -1986, Concordia - Selma, AL - 2018, Concordia-Portland - 2020).

The landscape of education is changing.  I suspect it will change much more in the immediate years to come.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

peter_speckhard

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2020, 03:24:55 PM »
Sad. I always liked that our Concordias were all over the country-- New York, Chicago, LA, Texas, Oregon, Nebraska, Alabama, Twin Cities, Wisconsin, and Ann Arbor. These developments have the feel, in military terms, of a constricting perimeter. Not sure what to do about it, though. It is just a sad thing.

D. Engebretson

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2020, 04:15:06 PM »
I think that we will see more changes, and closures, in the Concordia system in the foreseeable years ahead.  We have had closures going back to at least 1973.

Concordia - Oakland (1973)
St.Paul's College, Concordia, MO (1986) (now a high school)
St. John's College, Winfield, KS (1986)
Concordia - Selma (2018)
Concordia - Portland (2020)

The field is competitive - and costly.  Many have been trying to adapt to a greater online presence, even the Ivy Leagues.  As with anything in the marketplace I suspect that economic factors alone will remove a number of smaller institutions in the next few years. 

Although it is sad to see changes, these changes might end up for the better in the long run.  Many of our Concordias over the last several years have added a wide diversity of programs to remain competitive, programs far afield from their original charter as church work schools.  Not that any of this is wrong, but when you go outside of your original strengths you have to be that much better than the next guy in the same field.  Because the Concordias are private schools their tuition is going to be higher than the state run schools. 
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Dave Benke

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2020, 05:14:04 PM »
Wow!  Quite a surprise - I had just read in the Reporter that Tom Ries was appointed as Interim President.  Apparently a short-term assignment.  This is sad indeed. 

Dave Benke

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2020, 06:24:35 PM »
I think that we will see more changes, and closures, in the Concordia system in the foreseeable years ahead.  We have had closures going back to at least 1973.

Concordia - Oakland (1973)
St.Paul's College, Concordia, MO (1986) (now a high school)
St. John's College, Winfield, KS (1986)
Concordia - Selma (2018)
Concordia - Portland (2020)

The field is competitive - and costly.  Many have been trying to adapt to a greater online presence, even the Ivy Leagues.  As with anything in the marketplace I suspect that economic factors alone will remove a number of smaller institutions in the next few years. 

Although it is sad to see changes, these changes might end up for the better in the long run.  Many of our Concordias over the last several years have added a wide diversity of programs to remain competitive, programs far afield from their original charter as church work schools.  Not that any of this is wrong, but when you go outside of your original strengths you have to be that much better than the next guy in the same field.  Because the Concordias are private schools their tuition is going to be higher than the state run schools.


I just wonder what might have happened if Portland had stayed a small jr college (with the high school on the same campus) as it was when my wife and I attended there. The high school moved away in 1977. There were only about 180 students in the college at that time. It now lists about 1200 undergraduate enrollment, but only 54% graduation rate! In addition Wiki says that there are 5200 online and off-site students.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

mj4

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2020, 07:07:20 PM »
Take a look at these headlines in the Chronicle of Higher Education: https://www.chronicle.com/. It's a whole new world from when we were in school.

D. Engebretson

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2020, 10:33:32 PM »
Wow!  Quite a surprise - I had just read in the Reporter that Tom Ries was appointed as Interim President.  Apparently a short-term assignment.  This is sad indeed. 

Dave Benke

Pres. Ries was also involved in the Selma closure.  I'm surprised, after the issues from that event, that he would take on another.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2020, 10:37:09 PM »
Take a look at these headlines in the Chronicle of Higher Education: https://www.chronicle.com/. It's a whole new world from when we were in school.

"Forty percent of institutions are destined to struggle." That's a sobering statistic for college administrators.  But that's all I could read.  "This content is available exclusively to Chronicle subscribers."   
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

mj4

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2020, 10:55:30 PM »
Take a look at these headlines in the Chronicle of Higher Education: https://www.chronicle.com/. It's a whole new world from when we were in school.

"Forty percent of institutions are destined to struggle." That's a sobering statistic for college administrators.  But that's all I could read.  "This content is available exclusively to Chronicle subscribers."   

Susan Campbell Baldridge is a professor of psychology and former provost at Middlebury College. Susan Shaman is the former director of institutional research at the University of Pennsylvania. Robert Zemsky is a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania. Together, they are the authors of The College Stress Test (Johns Hopkins University Press), from which this essay is adapted.


RevG

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2020, 10:55:35 AM »
I was a bit caught off-guard by this because I was under the impression that Concordia-Portland was fairly strong due to the growth of its online programs, but I also know that institutions have to be very careful in regards to what they share about their circumstances.  Though, I do remember their having had issues with the U.S. Department of Education over a company they partnered with to grow their said programs.  Turns out that they never recovered from the dip in enrollment that that issue may have caused along with other factors.  From what I understand the big problem for small private liberal arts colleges is that a good portion of their operating budgets (upwards of 90%) come from tuition revenue.  If a college takes a hit in enrollment or its administration makes decisions that turn out to be unsuccessful recovery will be incredibly challenging; they may not be able to get out of the hole even if enrollment increases in the coming year(s).  Our Concordias have a lending agency to rely upon (LCEF) that other colleges may not have, but there is a tipping point in which the risks end up being too big. 

Peace,
Scott+

Dave Benke

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2020, 11:09:27 AM »
I was a bit caught off-guard by this because I was under the impression that Concordia-Portland was fairly strong due to the growth of its online programs, but I also know that institutions have to be very careful in regards to what they share about their circumstances.  Though, I do remember their having had issues with the U.S. Department of Education over a company they partnered with to grow their said programs.  Turns out that they never recovered from the dip in enrollment that that issue may have caused along with other factors.  From what I understand the big problem for small private liberal arts colleges is that a good portion of their operating budgets (upwards of 90%) come from tuition revenue.  If a college takes a hit in enrollment or its administration makes decisions that turn out to be unsuccessful recovery will be incredibly challenging; they may not be able to get out of the hole even if enrollment increases in the coming year(s).  Our Concordias have a lending agency to rely upon (LCEF) that other colleges may not have, but there is a tipping point in which the risks end up being too big. 

Peace,
Scott+

I agree with your assessment, Scott. 

My question has to do with the past several years in the transition and process of leadership selection following the retirement of the past president and the (non)selection of a new president.  There had to be a ramp-up time-frame for the board and national leadership in the months prior to the last president leaving.  If there are gaps in funding or changes in program, all the more reason to expedite the selection process.  This one, from my recollection of the timing, seems to have stopped and gone to extended interim at some point.  That could be either due to board concerns or to what we call in the Missouri Synod the Prior Approval Panel Process. 

I don't know what if any board concerns there were as they assembled their list of candidates or as they determined to hold things up.  However, I've been through a stopped Prior Approval Panel Process at one of our beloved synodical colleges, and know that it can present a significant bump/chasm in the road for the board of regents in exercising their regency.

Of course, there's no going back, but in order for this closure to provide a "teaching moment," there should be sufficient transparency in what happened that other colleges, and even the seminary, can learn from them.

Dave Benke

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2020, 12:10:18 PM »
I just received news that Concordia University - Wisconsin & Ann Arbor (CUWAA) has started an Inquiry Management Team, focused on helping CU-Portland students transition from their programs in the wake of the school's impending closure.  It is run by Ryan Fesser, and if you are an affected student, you can contact them at: inquiry.support@cuw.edu or call them at (262) 243-2090
Rev. Dr. Scott Yak imow
Professor of Theology
Concordia University - Ann Arbor

RevG

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2020, 12:15:42 PM »
I was a bit caught off-guard by this because I was under the impression that Concordia-Portland was fairly strong due to the growth of its online programs, but I also know that institutions have to be very careful in regards to what they share about their circumstances.  Though, I do remember their having had issues with the U.S. Department of Education over a company they partnered with to grow their said programs.  Turns out that they never recovered from the dip in enrollment that that issue may have caused along with other factors.  From what I understand the big problem for small private liberal arts colleges is that a good portion of their operating budgets (upwards of 90%) come from tuition revenue.  If a college takes a hit in enrollment or its administration makes decisions that turn out to be unsuccessful recovery will be incredibly challenging; they may not be able to get out of the hole even if enrollment increases in the coming year(s).  Our Concordias have a lending agency to rely upon (LCEF) that other colleges may not have, but there is a tipping point in which the risks end up being too big. 

Peace,
Scott+

I agree with your assessment, Scott. 

My question has to do with the past several years in the transition and process of leadership selection following the retirement of the past president and the (non)selection of a new president.  There had to be a ramp-up time-frame for the board and national leadership in the months prior to the last president leaving.  If there are gaps in funding or changes in program, all the more reason to expedite the selection process.  This one, from my recollection of the timing, seems to have stopped and gone to extended interim at some point.  That could be either due to board concerns or to what we call in the Missouri Synod the Prior Approval Panel Process. 

I don't know what if any board concerns there were as they assembled their list of candidates or as they determined to hold things up.  However, I've been through a stopped Prior Approval Panel Process at one of our beloved synodical colleges, and know that it can present a significant bump/chasm in the road for the board of regents in exercising their regency.

Of course, there's no going back, but in order for this closure to provide a "teaching moment," there should be sufficient transparency in what happened that other colleges, and even the seminary, can learn from them.

Dave Benke

I found this article to be helpful:https://www.oregonlive.com/education/2020/02/portlands-concordia-university-will-close-at-end-of-spring-semester.html.  It highlights some of the issues I mentioned.  I looked up when President Schlimpert retired (2018) which was a couple of years after they started having serious financial issues (2015).  Though, I'm not all that familiar how the presidential search would work in such a circumstance, I would think that would put a damper on the process. What say you?

The northeast is also facing similar issues of enrollment because of demographic changes. 
« Last Edit: February 11, 2020, 12:18:56 PM by Rev Geminn »

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Re: Concordia Portland is closing at the end of the academic year
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2020, 12:46:27 PM »
I was a bit caught off-guard by this because I was under the impression that Concordia-Portland was fairly strong due to the growth of its online programs, but I also know that institutions have to be very careful in regards to what they share about their circumstances.  Though, I do remember their having had issues with the U.S. Department of Education over a company they partnered with to grow their said programs.  Turns out that they never recovered from the dip in enrollment that that issue may have caused along with other factors.  From what I understand the big problem for small private liberal arts colleges is that a good portion of their operating budgets (upwards of 90%) come from tuition revenue.  If a college takes a hit in enrollment or its administration makes decisions that turn out to be unsuccessful recovery will be incredibly challenging; they may not be able to get out of the hole even if enrollment increases in the coming year(s).  Our Concordias have a lending agency to rely upon (LCEF) that other colleges may not have, but there is a tipping point in which the risks end up being too big. 

Peace,
Scott+

I agree with your assessment, Scott. 

My question has to do with the past several years in the transition and process of leadership selection following the retirement of the past president and the (non)selection of a new president.  There had to be a ramp-up time-frame for the board and national leadership in the months prior to the last president leaving.  If there are gaps in funding or changes in program, all the more reason to expedite the selection process.  This one, from my recollection of the timing, seems to have stopped and gone to extended interim at some point.  That could be either due to board concerns or to what we call in the Missouri Synod the Prior Approval Panel Process. 

I don't know what if any board concerns there were as they assembled their list of candidates or as they determined to hold things up.  However, I've been through a stopped Prior Approval Panel Process at one of our beloved synodical colleges, and know that it can present a significant bump/chasm in the road for the board of regents in exercising their regency.

Of course, there's no going back, but in order for this closure to provide a "teaching moment," there should be sufficient transparency in what happened that other colleges, and even the seminary, can learn from them.

Dave Benke

I found this article to be helpful:https://www.oregonlive.com/education/2020/02/portlands-concordia-university-will-close-at-end-of-spring-semester.html.  It highlights some of the issues I mentioned.  I looked up when President Schlimpert retired (2018) which was a couple of years after they started having serious financial issues (2015).  Though, I'm not all that familiar how the presidential search would work in such a circumstance, I would think that would put a damper on the process. What say you?

The northeast is also facing similar issues of enrollment because of demographic changes.

To begin, I don't have enough data to make an informed comment, so I'm just making a best guess based on instinct.

So we start with
a problem - decreased financials and enrollment

Then we have a retirement of a longtime leader

At that point, there are several basic tracks:
1) interim with belt-tightening
2) fast-track new leader selection going for
a) trusted leader
b) leader unafraid to make tough decisions
c) leader who brings both a financial accountability team and a fresh start team
3) wait and see - interim as interim not much happens.

I would pick #2 if I were interested in taking the best shot at keeping it going.  Even then I'd make sure people were aware that the new leader was on a tightrope.  So you'd have to pick someone who could walk the tightrope.

The Prior Approval Process is a sticky wicket if choice #2 is the one that the board wants to go with, because it takes time and can eliminate candidates.

Beyond the PAP, there's this - the major announcement in and around the last synodical convention was that the "historical college debt" had been eliminated by a property sale overseas.  So there is no more historical college debt.  Cool.  Does that not give greater flexibility of approach to institutions that are below the water line?  Apparently the answer is No.  Because the same question could have been asked surrounding the closing of Selma - if you're gaining $15-20 million, is there no way to support the struggling schools?  The answer times two to date is No.

I don't know what happened or when it happened, am blessedly out of that loop, but would simply ask those kinds of questions.

Because at the bottom of the day, all these smallish institutions without a big foundation behind them are on notice.  As you indicate, the demographics are daunting. 

This goes to the downturn in numbers of Lutheran kids in our schools and the downturn in the seminaries' enrollments over the years (with the exception in the seminaries of the SMP/Alternate Route student bodies).  In that instance, I don't see a problem with prioritizing getting "traditional" student enrollment up as a goal.  But realize it's a higher hill than you think because except for the clergy coming through the "family business" route (grandpa, dad, our uncles and cousins are pastors - it's what we do - a small but somewhat dependable group for recruitment), there are way less young men from among us who are available or who have interest in this vocation.  So I would specifically NOT advise throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, and downsizing/downgrading the SMP and Alternate Route programs to serve traditional students only.  That's begging for trouble, in my opinion.

Dave Benke