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Lutheran school cites declining enrollment and 'financial challenges' as it plans to sell its Northeast Portland campus.

COURTESY OF CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY - Northeast Portland's Concordia University will close in the spring after facing financial challenges.Concordia University, Northeast Portland's private Christian college, said Monday, Feb. 10, that it would close this spring. The announcement followed a Feb. 7 vote by the university's board of regents.

In a statement, Concordia interim President Thomas Ries cited "mounting financial challenges and a challenging and changing educational landscape." The 115-year-old school will close after its final commencement in late April.

"After much prayer and consideration of all options to continue Concordia University, Portland's 115-year legacy, the board of regents concluded that the university's current and projected enrollment and finances make it impossible to continue its educational mission," Ries said. "We have come to the decision this is in the best interest of our students, faculty, staff and partners."

According to the university, April 25 will mark the last commencement ceremony. University law students will graduate May 2. Students who have not completed their degrees by then will have to transfer to another school.

Planned university open houses will provide more information to students who have to finish their degrees elsewhere. The university said it was in "active discussions" with other colleges and universities to help both students and faculty find new schools.

Neighboring colleges: transfer students welcome

As news of the closure swirled, Portland State University and George Fox University stood ready to help students transfer over to their schools if needed.

Fellow private Christian school George Fox University likened the news to "an unexpected death in the family."

"I thought it was a cruel April Fools joke when I read the news," Rob Felton, George Fox spokesman, said Monday evening. "Most colleges are doing some belt tightening these days, but I haven't talked to anyone who wasn't shocked by this."

Noting a "similar faith mission as Concordia," George Fox, which operates out of Newberg, is offering $5,000 grants to current Concordia students looking to transfer, expediting application processing, and waiving application fees.

PSU Interim President Stephen Percy said he'd reached out to Ries on Monday to "express his sadness about the closure of a longtime academic and civic partner," and noted the state school was eager to help students make the jump from Concordia to the state school.

"PSU stands ready to assist students searching for a higher education home following Concordia's closure," Eki Yandall, director of domestic recruitment at PSU. He said PSU already has been fielding calls from Concordia students.

"For a lot of these students, I think Portland State is going to be a great fit," Yandall said.

This isn't the first time PSU has accepted students who started at a private university that was later shuttered before they could earn their degree. Most recently, Marylhurst University's closure in 2018 left students scrambling to find another school.

"There were at least two or three students who started their education at Marylhurst, transferred to Concordia, and now are just tryintg to cross the finish line," Yandell said.

A web page has been established specifically for Concordia students looking to transfer to PSU.

Concordia maintained a partnership with Faubion K8 school, the Portland public school that sits across from the private university's campus.

The two schools aimed for an "education corridor," between the two campuses and would often share the use of facilities and resources. School officials said they were "surprised and saddened" to hear of the university's closure.

Faubion's principal, Karmin Williams, sent a message to families Monday.

"As sad as today's news is, we want you to know that Concordia's pending closing will not affect Faubion's ability to continue to serve our students and families," Williams stated. "We are here today and will be here tomorrow and beyond. Our educators and staff are excited about the work ahead in our classrooms, and we expect that Kaiser Permanente, basics, and Trillium Family Services will continue to serve our community as well. We are also in continuing discussions with our 3 to PhD partners about what the second iteration of the initiative should look like."

Concordia University has an enrollment of more than 6,000 students, including those in online programs. Nearly 98% of the students receive financial aid, according to the university. A majority of Concordia's students — 4,305 as of 2018 — are students seeking graduate degrees. The university also employs more than 400 faculty and staff.

College officials say the university will return its 24-acre Northeast Holman Street campus to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and one of its lenders, Lutheran Church Extension Fund, with hopes of finding someone to buy the property.


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