Portland’s Concordia University will close at end of spring semesterFebruary 11, 2020
Concordia University announced Monday it will close this spring after 115 years in operation.
The private, nonprofit Lutheran university’s Board of Regents voted last Friday to cease operations at the end of its spring semester. The university’s 24-acre campus is expected to eventually go up for sale.
The closure reflects the difficult times facing colleges. Shrinking enrollment has taken a financial toll on many universities across the country. Concordia is the third Portland-area private college to shut down since 2018 — Marylhurst in Lake Oswego and the Oregon School of Art and Craft shut their doors permanently, unable to compete in these leaner times.
Tom Ries, who took the post of interim president in early January, said Concordia’s enrollment plummeted from more than 8,000 four years ago to around 5,000 currently. He said the university has a “significant” debt load and faced significantly higher costs in the coming year.
The shutdown came suddenly. Just last Tuesday, Concordia staged a flashy event that raised $355,000 for its an innovative program with Portland Public Schools. The first some staff and faculty heard anything about a shutdown was when it was announced to them at 9 a.m. Monday. Students got the word an hour later.
The fate of Concordia’s law school in Boise is unclear. Concordia is looking for a partner to help operate the school going forward.
“The board’s decision is a result of years of mounting financial challenges and the changing educational landscape,” said Liz Loulan, a Concordia spokeswoman.
“The Board made this decision to prioritize the well-being of students, faculty and staff and fulfill its fiduciary obligations,” Concordia said in a statement. “In the Board’s best judgment, a thoughtful and orderly closure process offers the best possible outcome for all affected parties.”
Michael Fuller, a Portland consumer protection attorney, said late in the day that he intended to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of Concordia students.
The school has been in cost-cutting mode for some time. Last February, Concordia decided to fold its English, history, chemistry, global studies and community psychology programs.
Concordia was not cheap. Current tuition is about $31,000. Food and housing would typically push the ultimate price tag to $44,078, according to National Center for Education Statistics. Nearly 5,900 students attended Concordia in 2018, according to its website. The university said it’s in talks to provide students the chance to continue their education elsewhere.
The university faculty includes 63 full-time and 172 part-time instructors.
Driving online enrollment
Concordia hired HotChalk, Inc., a technology company, to help it grow enrollment and revenue. HotChalk attempted to do that in part by building a new online education operation.
Online instruction was the pivotal force that propelled Concordia’s rise to one of the nation’s largest providers of Master of Education degrees. But…