Thursday, May 17, 2018
Board of Trustees Votes to Close Marylhurst University
Marylhurst to close by the end of 2018; students, faculty and staff will receive support throughout transition
After months of extensive analysis and thoughtful deliberation, the Marylhurst University Board of Trustees has voted that the university will stop all operations by the end of 2018.
“While this decision is sad and difficult for everyone involved, we feel it’s the best decision for students, faculty, staff and our entire community,” said Chip Terhune, chair-elect of the Marylhurst University Board of Trustees. “The Board evaluated multiple factors before reaching this conclusion, including an ongoing decline in enrollment, the extensive efforts made over the past several years by campus leadership to overcome these challenges, response to community needs and existing access to higher education. We are confident this is the most responsible and respectful course of action to take for everyone involved.”
As the Board’s chair-elect, Terhune will oversee the realignment of Marylhurst’s resources. He made the announcement to faculty and staff on Thursday morning.
Marylhurst University President Melody Rose emphasized that students, faculty and staff will be her focus throughout this transition. Academic advisers will be available to answer immediate questions from students, and meetings and information sessions are being scheduled with other colleges and universities, financial advisers, human resources and others in the coming days.
“Nearly 125 years ago, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary created Marylhurst to provide a Catholic and liberal arts post-secondary education to people of all faiths and backgrounds, encouraging students to pursue the ideals of competence, ethical leadership and service,” Rose said. “We know today that we have completed that mission with vision, faith, and courage. As our students and faculty process this news, we remain committed to providing support to help them move forward with pursuing their educational and career goals. Our goal is to assist our entire community in finding a safe landing in whatever their educational or professional future holds.”
According to Terhune, the Board’s decision is the result of a long and thoughtful decision-making process in which the Trustees worked closely with university leadership to determine a solution putting students, faculty and staff first. The Board reviewed numerous reorganization scenarios and strategies. “Despite these efforts, there was no viable financial path that would have enabled us to sustain the high level of academic programming for which we have always strived without putting an extreme, unsustainable burden on our students, faculty and staff,” Terhune said. The decision to close also ensured Marylhurst didn’t encounter the accreditation issues, recalled loans or negative audits that often accompany other universities’ closures.
“On behalf of my fellow Trustees, I want to thank Dr. Rose for her expertise and leadership during these challenging times and express our continued trust in her as she shepherds our community through this transition,” Terhune said. “We value her guidance and her insistence on prioritizing what’s best for students, faculty and the rest of the Marylhurst community.”
Like many small, private liberal arts colleges and universities, Marylhurst has seen a steady decline in enrollment since the end of the Great Recession. According to research published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollments in the United States have declined for the past six years. While there are more than 7,400 U.S. institutions, enrollment has dropped from 21 million students in 2010 to 19.8 million in 2016, a nearly 6 percent decline, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Marylhurst has been unable to counter this trend. For example, at the beginning of the 2013-14 fall term, 1,409 students were enrolled. By fall term 2017-18, enrollment had declined to 743 students. Projections for fall 2018-19 show enrollment will continue to decline.
The university is working with 81 students who could complete their degrees by the end of summer 2018 by taking additional summer classes. The university is also preparing individualized transfer plans for the estimated 324 students remaining this fall to help ensure they’re able to complete their degrees.
Marylhurst is a heritage site of the Sisters of the Holy Names, an international congregation of Catholic Sisters, Associates and Lay Consecrated who are dedicated to the full development of the human person through education, social justice, contemplation and the arts. Following the closure of the university, the campus will be returned to the previous owners, the Sisters of the Holy Names, who will make future plans for the property in alignment with their mission and values.
“Marylhurst University is a place where our Sisters have nurtured the personal and professional growth of generations of students,” said Sister Maureen Delaney, leader of the Holy Names Sisters’ U.S.-Ontario Province. “Our prayers are with everyone during this transition. We know the Board of Trustees reached their decision only after careful study. We will be assembling a task force to explore the best way to utilize the campus property to serve our mission.”
Marylhurst will provide the latest information and updates for students, faculty, staff, donors, alumni and other stakeholders on its website, at www.marylhurst.edu/closure.
About Marylhurst University
In 1859, 12 Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary left their home in Quebec to establish an educational community in Portland, Oregon. St. Mary’s Academy opened its doors that same year, expanding to St. Mary’s Academy and College in 1893, and in 1930, the college operations relocated to its current campus nestled between the cities of Lake Oswego and West Linn. In those years leading up to the Great Depression, the Sisters fought the KKK for the right to provide private education, and won (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 1925), and Caroline Gleason (Sister Miriam Theresa) advocated for passing Oregon’s minimum wage law in 1913 – one of the first in the nation.
Then and today, the Sisters identify community needs and come forward to serve. This mission of “serving the underserved” has guided Marylhurst for nearly 125 years. In its early days, Marylhurst College provided higher education to young women. In 1974, Marylhurst transitioned to a co-educational college for lifelong learners, one of the first in the nation, serving older students returning to complete degrees. In 1998, Marylhurst became a university, adding master’s degrees and online degree completion programs. With each turn, Marylhurst University provided access to a quality education to those whose opportunities were limited by gender, age, location and other barriers. Marylhurst University has awarded thousands of degrees, with more than 12,000 living alumni today.
# # #