Cardinal Stritch president reflects on university closure, help for students and state of higher education

NOW: Cardinal Stritch president reflects on university closure, help for students and state of higher education

FOX POINT, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Cardinal Stritch President Dr. Dan Scholz told CBS 58 in a one-on-one interview the past two weeks have been an overwhelming experience as the college announced its permanent closure, leaving students and staff scrambling for options and questions about the state of higher education in the state.

"It's been a range of emotions," Scholz told CBS 58.

The announcement of the permanent closure of Cardinal Stritch University came as a shock to faculty, staff and students, many who were left wondering if they could have been told sooner by university leadership.

"I don't think we could've notified them any earlier," Scholz said of telling students.

Scholz explained how the university hoped to survive a dire financial situation, which included a $6 million deficit this year. But ultimately, time ran out.

"It wasn't until January and into February that we saw that we probably weren't going to make it financially," Scholz recalled. "So, we tried many different avenues to try to raise that money to close the gap and we were ultimately unsuccessful."

Scholz said the university board reached its decision on April 5 and voted to inform the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi -- the university's sponsoring order.

The news was made public on April 10. University leadership spoke with faculty and staff on April 11 and a town hall event was held April 12 for students. The focus now is on helping the Stritch community, especially students, transfer to other institutions.

"We are creating teach-out agreements and transfer agreements," Scholz said. "Nothing is signed yet but all of our area colleges and universities have been wonderful in helping us work with that."

When asked about his own future and what's next for him, Scholz replied, "I don't know. I don't know."

The uncertainty is mirrored by other higher education institutions that face similar challenges, Scholz says.

"The demographic cliff is coming in 2026, so enrollments are dropping so most institutions are worried about this, about how do we keep our enrollments steady or grow," Scholz said.

Other colleges stepping up to help

Several colleges in Wisconsin have reached out to Cardinal Stritch to offer ways to help facilitate the transfer of certain students impacted by the closure.

Among them is Concordia University, about a ten minute drive north from Cardinal Stritch.

"It certainly saddens us to see this development," Dr. Michael Uden, Concordia's vice provost for student enrollment and engagement, told CBS 58 in an interview.

Concordia will be holding a virtual information session on Thursday, April 13 at 7 p.m. for Cardinal Stritch students who may want to learn more about a potential transfer process. The university said it is prepared to help with undergraduate and graduate students.

"We have really all hands-on deck," Uden said. "Academic advisors, our registrar team, our faculty, anyone who could answer questions."

More information about the Concordia University transfer options and the information session can be found HERE

Carroll University is also offering options for Cardinal Stritch students.

"We are working to assist the Stritch student body, faculty and staff as they begin this very difficult transition," a statement from Carroll University said. "This includes “teach out” agreements that will allow Stritch students to complete their studies at Carroll."

Carroll is offering a virtual meeting on Tuesday, April 18 at 7 p.m. for Stritch students as well as an on-campus open house on Saturday, April 22 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Mount Mary University President Isabelle Cherney also released a letter voicing support for Stritch students and staff.

"It is our goal to support Cardinal Stritch students in this difficult time," Cherney said in the letter. "A plan is in place to allow current Cardinal Stritch students to seamlessly transfer to Mount Mary without losing any credits or class standing. In addition, we encourage Cardinal Stritch faculty and staff to apply for any vacant Mount Mary positions."

Mount Mary has a page on its website for more information for Cardinal Stritch students. That can be found HERE.

UW-Milwaukee told CBS 58 it is working on offering options for Cardinal Stritch students.

“We want Stritch students to know that we’re here for you,” said UWM Chancellor Mark Mone. “We are saddened by Stritch’s pending closure, and understand students are worried about what’s next. UWM has the programs to help Stritch students complete their degrees, and we know that our diverse, engaged campus will welcome them.”

UWM said Stritch students who enroll in the Summer or Fall 2023 terms will be guaranteed the following:

  • A $1,000 transition scholarship if they apply by June 1
  • Dedicated admissions advisors
  • A streamlined application review and decision process.

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