SHAWNEE, Okla. – The only Roman Catholic university in Oklahoma will close at the end of the fall semester because of financial difficulties.
Students at St. Gregory's University were told about the closure during an emergency meeting Wednesday. The private liberal arts school, which was established in 1875, said it was working with other schools to facilitate student transfers and looking at teach-out agreements.
"With great sadness, the Board of Directors of St. Gregory's University voted today to suspend operations effective at the close of the fall semester 2017," the Rev. Don Wolf, board chairman, said in a statement posted on the university's website.
The board said the decision came after the school was denied a $12.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The university was denied despite de-annexing from Shawnee in January to fit the requirements of the loan, which required that the university must be located in a rural area to qualify.
"Without this component in the financial plan, the ability to sustain the university at this point is not possible," Wolf wrote.
Wolf said the school's main concerns are its students, staff and faculty. The university has scheduled an on-campus transfer fair for students for next week.
The university announced a strategic plan in April 2016 that identified $143 million of capital needs. University President Michael Scaperlanda, who took over as president a month after the announcement, immediately took steps to decrease debt and increase enrollment. He said he expected the capital campaign to begin with the start of the academic year in August 2016, but no announcement was ever made.
A year earlier, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation reached an agreement with the school to provide $5 million in exchange for full scholarships to 60 tribal members. Then-President Greg Main said the school planned to use the money to pay operational costs, refinance assets and expand fundraising activities.
Scaperlanda declined to comment on the scholarships, saying it would be up to the tribe to do so.
Wolf's statement said the school's board will continue work "to resolve financial difficulties and to explore possible partnerships in order to move forward."