Aquinas College to restructure, dropping programs, faculty and s - WSMV News 4

Aquinas College to restructure, dropping programs, faculty and students

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Aquinas College (WSMV) Aquinas College (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Aquinas College in Nashville announced Friday that it will reconfigure its programs to focus exclusively on education, losing faculty, staff and students in the process.

According to the college, beginning in fall 2017, Aquinas will no longer offer degrees in arts and sciences, business and nursing. Instead, it will primarily focus on education of teachers, specifically for Catholic schools.

The school will also no longer provide residential housing and student life activities either.

As a result, Aquinas says approximately 60 faculty and staff will lose their jobs, and as many as 140 students will have to transfer.

The school cited financial reasons for the restructuring. In a press release, spokesperson Sister Anne Catherine Burleigh said it was their “most financially responsible alternative … There is no viable, long-term solution that would adequately support a four-year traditional college with residential and student life without placing both the college and the congregation at serious financial risk.”

Employees will receive a severance package and assistance as they seek other employment. The administration is in talks with institutions similar to Aquinas to help students find secure placement elsewhere.

“We are deeply aware of the profound impact such a change will have on the faculty, staff and students at Aquinas, people whom we know and love,” said Sister Mary Sarah. “One of our greatest concerns is for them, and we are committed to do all that we can so that they will experience as little disruption in their lives as possible.”

Sarah also addressed the decision in a statement:

The Dominican Sisters are united in our decision to move forward with the reconfiguration of Aquinas College. Getting to the decision was, understandably, difficult for all of us. We built this college from the start, we have lived through its challenges and successes, and we very much wanted it to continue in its present direction. However, the financial realities are serious enough that, after much prayer and discernment, we decided to reconfigure our programs so that we could keep Aquinas College open. Our board members acted in an advisory capacity in this matter, since the financial responsibility for the school rests solely on the shoulders of our congregation. We understand if a board member is disappointed, but in the end our congregation made the decision we feel is best for Aquinas College.

One student said he was notified in an email Friday morning.

“We were going to get an oil change and out of nowhere got an email saying in short, ‘We’re going to turn it into an education-only school,’” said nursing student Charles Fredrick. “It just makes you realize anything can shatter. It was the last thing I was expecting. It was out of the blue.

An Aquinas College representative said students were informed of the news at a meeting Friday morning. The representative added those who could not attend called in to a conference line. An email was sent after those meetings.

Channel 4 spoke to former Aquinas board member V.M. Wheeler, who resigned Friday morning.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the decision to refocus the college,” Wheeler said. “I think the college had improved its financial position over the past year and it was on the cusp of really turning the corner and becoming a recognizable name in Catholic higher education.”

The decision to reconfigure Aquinas will have no impact on other schools run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.

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