UPDATE: St. Gregory’s University announces shutdown – News – The Shawnee News-Star

At around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Shawnee received some shocking news that will directly affect 550 students and 110 employees at St. Gregory’s University (SGU).

In a devastating blow that will also affect many in the community, SGU — an education icon in the community for 140-plus years — announced that the end of this Fall’s classes would be its last, at least for the foreseeable future.

At around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Shawnee received some shocking news that will directly affect 550 students and 110 employees at St. Gregory’s University (SGU).

In a devastating blow that will also affect many in the community, SGU — an education icon in the community for 140-plus years — announced that the end of this Fall’s classes would be its last, at least for the foreseeable future.

On the university’s Facebook page and website, the post alerted area residents to a decision made Wednesday by the Board of Directors to suspend operations at the end of this semester, after hearing of the denial of their loan application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Without this component in the financial plan, the ability to sustain the university at this point is not possible,” the post reads.

SGU President Dr. Michael Scaperlanda said like so many small liberal arts colleges, St. Gregory’s has struggled financially for years.

He said SGU had been working for months toward securing the USDA loan.

“The City of Shawnee graciously de-annexed us to help us become eligible,” he said.

But another technicality is what ultimately made the effort fail.

“In a never-before-mentioned rule, the USDA said we had to be in a rural area in the census,” he said.

Since the de-annexation was a matter of months ago, SGU was not considered to be in a rural area in 2010 — at the time of the last census.

“They said we can reapply in 2020,” Scaperlanda said.

That won’t be soon enough to keep things afloat.

Father Don Wolf, SGU Board Chairman, said, “Our main concern at this moment is for our students, staff and faculty who will be profoundly impacted by this decision.”

Wolf said the university is working with several colleges to facilitate student transfers in an attempt to minimize disruption in SGU students’ lives.

“Without the loan, we had no viable path forward,” Scaperlanda said.

“I am grateful for our excellent staff and faculty who have labored for years under severe financial constraints, dedicated to providing the best education for our students. They have provided generations of students a framework to live joy-filled lives in service to others. I am also grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of the monastic community, the Board of Directors, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the Catholic Church of Oklahoma and countless others who have prayed for St. Gregory’s and given of their resources to help sustain the university,” Scaperlanda said.

Scaperlanda said, at this point, his and the SGU Board’s biggest concern was to make sure students could continue their education; since SGU couldn’t guarantee that for the spring, the decision was made to shut it down at the end of the semester.

The effects of the university’s decision will undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences.

In the present, stunned students, residents and leaders are still processing the news.

Rt. Rev. Lawrence Stasyszen, Abbot and Chancellor of St. Gregory’s said, “The monks of St. Gregory’s Abbey are deeply concerned by this turn of events. We are especially concerned for the families who will be impacted by this development. Our community has made one of our highest priorities the mission of education since coming to Indian Territory in 1875. We are grateful to the countless people who have been partners with us in this ministry, especially the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and many dedicated colleagues and donors.”

Shawnee Mayor Richard Finley said the news was very disappointing.

“They have been a great asset and a community contributor for a very long time. (They) will be truly missed,” he said.

Shawnee City Manager Justin Erickson said he was deeply saddened by the suspension of operations and the impact this will have on many individuals and families.

“The university is an integral and defining part of our community and I am heartened to see the university and many key community partners come together to help students, faculty and staff transition during this time,” he said.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal Chairman John Barrett said he was deeply disappointed that the university had to make the difficult decision.

“We ask for your prayers and positive thoughts to find a solution for these students and their education,” he said.

The university will finalize a provisional plan with the Higher Learning Commission, the statement reads. Once the plan is approved by HLC, students will be notified of the plan and over the next few weeks, transfer fairs and job fairs will be scheduled on campus. Teach-out agreements and transfer opportunities are underway with area universities.

Just down the street, Oklahoma Baptist University weighed in on the situation.

“We are deeply saddened by the news from SGU about their need to suspend operations of the university at the end of the semester,” a press release stated. “We have experienced a long and mutually beneficial relationship including a decades-long articulation agreement with the university. We stand ready to offer assistance to SGU students to accommodate them in completing their academic pursuits.”

Current SGU student Cheyenne Branscum said she is absolutely devastated.

“I love my program and can’t imagine transferring to another university at this time, which will mean my education is now on hold,” she said. “I feel so connected to my professors and can’t believe I have to give that up.”

A freshman in the Masters in Professional Counseling program, Branscum said she had planned to begin designing a research project in the near future, but now that doesn’t seem feasible.

“I’m no where near graduating, but this was something I’d been working toward starting for over a year,” she said. “I’d hoped to bring counseling techniques to K-12 classrooms in order to create trauma-informed learning environments.”

Former student, Class of 2005’s Crystal J. Wuensche (Nowosielski) said her heart goes out to all the faculty, staff, students and all involved in this huge change to their lives and livelihood.

“I have many fond memories of my time at St Gregory’s during the years 2001 to 2005 and even going back to visit many years later,” she said. “I made some of my best friends that I am still in contact with 12 years later at the university.”

Scaperlanda said hope is not lost for the Cavaliers.

He said the Board of Directors continues to work actively to resolve financial difficulties and to explore possible partnerships in order to move forward.

“We have a great hope that we can find resources to begin again,” he said. “Though it will be a difficult path.”

Established in 1875, St. Gregory’s is a private liberal arts college and Oklahoma’s only Catholic university. It is located 40 miles east of Oklahoma City.

Watch for updates.

Source