Grace University has announced it will cease all academic operations at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.
The private college, based in Omaha, planned to relocate to the former Dana College campus in Blair in May or June 2018.
“After much prayer, and with a genuine heaviness of heart, the board of trustees believed that making this difficult decision was necessary due to the financial struggles and significant decline in new undergraduate student enrollment over the past few years,” CEO Bill Bauhard said in a statement released Tuesday.
“For the remainder of the academic year, the university will work with students to ensure the completion of their degrees through specific arrangements with other institutions, or through normal transfer procedures,” Bauhard said. “Specifics of those transitional plans are pending approval by educational regulatory agencies.”
Carlon Tschetter, chairperson, Grace University Board of Trustees, shared a statement with students, faculty and staff Tuesday.
“This decision was extremely difficult, and one that was not reached without fervent prayer in seeking God’s will for Grace’s future and before exhausting all attempts to address the University’s financial challenges,” Tschetter said. “We are confident that the decision was necessary at this time to ensure, to the extent possible, the successful completion of the current year and to provide sufficient time for the necessary transition planning for all those affected by the closure.
“The economic difficulties Grace has encountered over the past several years were due mainly to declining enrollment while initiatives to grow enrollment were unsuccessful,” Tschetter said. “The financial impact of those issues reached a level whereby the amount of cash required to continue operations beyond the current year could not be reasonably attained without putting the university at significant risk.”
Grace University, founded in 1947, has an enrollment of nearly 300 students. Grace has sold most of the buildings on its campus. If the college wasn’t able to relocate to the Dana campus in 2018, it would be forced to find other accommodations to remain operational.
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) placed Grace’s accreditation on probation June 29 due to concerns about its financial status and lack of long-term planning, among other issues.
The HLC was scheduled to evaluate Grace in June 2019 to determine whether it mitigated its issues of non-compliance. Bauhard told the Enterprise he was optimistic Grace would be able to mitigate its issues to retain accreditation.
In March, Ed Shada, vice president of Great Western Bank, announced a $92 million proposal to transform the Dana campus, owned by developer Frank Krejci. His umbrella organization, Angels Share, would manage the Frank and Jane Krejci Learning and Life Community (KLC). Grace University would be its main tenant.
Krejci has pledged to donate the Dana property to Angels Share. Shada told the Enterprise he wants to make progress on fundraising before acquiring the Dana campus.
Shada is scheduled to give a campus development update during the Dana College homecoming formal ceremonies Saturday.
Grace faculty and students helped clean up landscaping on the Dana campus Sept. 22 in preparation for homecoming.
The Enterprise will update this story when more information is available.