University leaders are tight-lipped after suddenly announcing closure plans, but in retrospect, a few events may have been warning signs. Now, details emerge about tensions with the university’s affiliated church, leaving other colleges, church members and higher education sorting through the pieces.
In December 2012, Concordia University, in Portland, Ore., hosted a presentation for its bondholders in which it spelled out what it saw as a changing higher education landscape.
A market would persist for traditional 18-year-old high school graduates, the presentation said. But private colleges and universities’ long-term sustainability depended on their ability to “strategically expand into areas that fulfill their mission, provide high margin return, and leverage their existing infrastructure.”
The presentation went on to spell out three initiatives already under way that would position Concordia to survive this changing future. One was a law school it had launched in Boise, Idaho, that fall. Another was a pilot program newly launched in homeland security that it hoped to scale up quickly. And the third was a massive expansion of online graduate education.
“While the marketplace is significant, the ability to effectively and economically market and recruit remains a challenge,” the presentation said. “Concordia University delivered its Masters Degree in Education in an online format for over 10 years with some success, but needed large critical mass.”