After a sudden vote near the end of spring term, Marylhurst University will close its doors by the end of 2018 and be returned to its former owners, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. The school cited a steady decline in enrollment for the past eight years and financial reasons, such as money lost from ailing student enrollment.
“While we have been questioned by some who feel the Board voted too early and questioned by others who feel the decision was made too late, the truth is that there is no good time to choose to close an institution,” said Board of Trustee vice chair-elect and alumna Sue Hildick. “The decision was difficult and painful for all involved, even if we believe it was the right one,” Hildick said. “There are no words to convey the profound sadness we feel for students, staff, faculty and alumni while our community deals with this situation, and our focus right now is on doing everything we can to help students transition.”
This impacts not just Marylhurst students, but Clackamas Community College students as well.
The university will lay off 110 employees; the Office of Human Resources is to meet one-on-one with employees to help with the transition of being laid off. Severance packages have been accepted for “regular” employees. Three-hundred and sixty employees in total will lose their jobs.
“Of the 110 regular employees, all regular employees will eventually be laid off. Adjunct faculty aren’t laid off because they aren’t regular employees; they won’t be re-hired (unless they’re teaching classes summer term),” Marylhurst media relations Kara Hansen wrote in an email.
Marylhurst currently has 743 students enrolled, a majority of which are part-time, according to the University’s response by email. This is a drop from the 2013-14 1,409 student enrollment, a 54 percent drop.
“We are working to prepare individualized transfer plans for the estimated 324 students who are unable to complete their degrees by the end of summer 2018,” Hansen wrote.
Michaela VanCorbach, a First year student that transferred from Chemeketa Community College, had an entire plan laid out for her with music therapy, helping even children affected with autism.
“I was in shock,” said VanCorbach, expressing how she felt angery, confused and sad. “My heart sank,” she added. “It felt as though all of the hard work I put in over the last few years, getting scholarships, moving, practicing my instruments and working was for nothing.”
Though the sudden notice has affected many students, there has been a tsunami of help from other colleges and universities.
The many universities and colleges Marylhurst students are able to transfer to include Reed College, Prescott College, Portland State University, Linfield College, Lewis & Clark College. Marylhurst University held a transfer fair where about 200 students participated.
Only those who can finish their degree by the end of summer 2018 will be eligible to complete their degree from Marylhurst.
“Students who will not [finish] by then will be referred to a partner institution for completion,” according to the Marylhurst student FAQs website. “All credits earned at Marylhurst are valid even after the University has closed. They are considered regionally accredited, and will be considered for transfer by any other regionally accredited institution.”
According to the website’s FAQ page for students regarding the closure, one of the questions is about scholarships, with the last part asking “What if I transfer elsewhere?” While Marylhurst explains that the scholarships will be valid until the end of summer 2018, it does not answer the latter, only that “each student has a unique situation and the university will be providing financial and academic counseling to all impacted students on an individual basis.”
Marylhurst will be working with local colleges and universities to help students transfer over.
“We were both planning on going there for an English degree with an emphasis on creative writing,” said Nathan Bas, a CCC student who was planning on transferring to Marylhurst. “There’s not a lot of schools out there, especially nearby, that have good creative writing programs that we could get into.”
For those at CCC, this was the best option. For CCC student, Writer Laureate and English major Sara Sklenicka, this was her choice. She said that “there’s a few other colleges CCC has an English track for and Marylhurst was one of them.” With plans to go only to Marylhurst due to its reputation, Sklenicka had worked her credits specifically for this university.
“So, now I have a bunch of credits designed specifically to go to Marylhurst,” Sklenicka said. “Because [Bas and I] found out at the end of the term, it’s been a bit of a scramble to be accepted into other universities.”
For Bas and Sklenicka, the news came “out of nowhere,” according to Bas. For Bas, he received an email from the university that “basically said ‘Yep, we’re closing.’” And Sklenicka found out by text from a friend and some English instructors at CCC asking if she heard the news. All of this happened on May 17, the same day everyone else outside of the Marylhurst and CCC found out. This was the same day they announced to the public through their website that they would close their doors by the end of this year following a Board of Trustees vote.
“It’s kind of dropped us into a place where we can’t focus on our homework,” Bas said. “Granted, a lot of the schools are trying to make accommodations for that by extending their deadlines and stuff like that, but they’re all extremely busy at the moment right now, so trying to get in contact with them and trying to get accurate information about what we can transfer over is not clear yet.”
According to Bas, the University did call them a week afterwards, basically saying that there would be a fair with the many universities and colleges to help transfer students over to other schools.
Marylhurst explained what would happen to students with financial aid and what their next steps should be on the FAQ section of its website. In response to the question: “Can I transfer my financial aid from the closed school to another?” the university’s website states: “No, financial aid does not transfer from one school to another.”
“However, you can apply for financial aid at another school by adding the new school to your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, and that school can determine what aid you will qualify for at their school,” the FAQ page stated.
Sklenicka said it would’ve been nice to know about the school’s closing sooner.
“It’s just been a scramble to try to figure things out so late in the term and figuring out if I still need to take summer courses for the English degree I was towards or if I’m going to need to take courses [for another school I’ll be transferring to],” Sklenicka said.
According to Bas, PSU has been waiving their application fee. He also added that Marylhurst’s decision came a little too late.
Bas said it would have been smoother to know the decision they made back before the start of spring term, so he could have made plans prior to the start of the term. Because of the timing, especially near the end of the term, he said, it’s been too stressful for him.
Sklenicka said she is thankful for everyone in CCC’s English department for being extremely helpful, “trying to help us figure things out and get things straightened out.”