Though leaders of Rensselaer’s Saint Joseph’s College continue to talk about the school’s closure as a one-year exercise, the loss of a tuition-paying, 900-student body may mean the end of the Catholic school’s 128-year history.
Administrators have sought help from other Indiana schools since learning of the school’s dire financial woes last year.
They’ve reached out to other small, religious schools, such as Fort Wayne’s University of Saint Francis and Indianapolis’ Marian University, as well as to big schools like Purdue.
All three of those institutions say they stand ready to accept St. Joe students next year – and that may be the problem.
The campus, which is $45 million in debt, gets between 15-and-20 million dollars a year from tuition, room and board – money it’ll certainly need to become solvent again.
But if all the students leave, it’s unlikely Saint Joe could recruit enough replacements all at once in the fall of 2018 to pay the bills.
Calls to the Rensselaer campus weren’t returned Tuesday, but Marian University spokesman Mark Apple says he believes St. Joe administrators knew the implications when they asked for help.
“I think the leadership at St. Joseph’s College certainly would have considered how these students transferring to other institutions is going to impact them long-term,” Apple says.
Purdue Admissions Director Mitch Warren says he’s heard of about a dozen inquiries from Saint Joseph’s students who may want to study in West Lafayette next year. But he says he’d try to leave open the possibility they could return to their school of origin, if that’s ever a possibility.
“My hope would be, even if they come here for a semester or a year or perhaps even three semesters and Saint Joe’s were to reopen, that’s always an option for them to go back and finish their degree,” Warren says.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels appointed Warren the head of a prospective Purdue committee which could go to Rensselaer, if asked, and provide assistance in transferring students 40 miles south for next school year – even though Purdue cannot guarantee on-campus housing for any transfers.