Linfield responds to Concordia’s closure

Courtesy+of+Vanessa+Kelly

Courtesy of Vanessa Kelly

Elin Johnson, Life and Culture Editor

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Concordia University-Portland announced its closure Monday morning to the shock of its community, leaving students scrambling and inspiring generosity from neighboring institutions.

Concordia, which was founded in 1905 as a Lutheran affiliate, will shut its doors at the end of this spring semester. The university had over 6,000 students from 15 undergraduate majors and three master’s programs who are all now wondering what their next steps will be.

Once closed, the campus will be returned to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church Extension Fund to be sold.

Linfield College will offer any students who were enrolled at Concordia during the 2019-2020 academic year, or who were committed to enroll next fall, a guaranteed minimum, renewable financial aid award of $16,500 if they enroll full-time on the McMinnville campus. Potential transfers will need to apply using the Common Application.

“In an effort to help affected students, Linfield has agreed to waive all application fees (for online and the McMinnville campus) for Concordia students,” said Lisa Knodle-Bragiel, director of admissions at Linfield, via email. 

“Because of the unfortunate situation for Concordia, Oregon colleges and universities like Linfield may likely see an increase in transfers,” she said. “Admission will work with Concordia transfer applicants to make the process as quick and seamless as possible.”

Knodle-Bragiel confirmed that Linfield admissions had received “a lot” of calls since Monday’s announcement but did not confirm the exact number out of  “respect of Concordia” as they navigate how to serve their current students and prospective transfer students best. 

Linfield is the latest in a run of Oregon colleges and universities offering incentives to entice Concordia students to join their ranks.

Linfield’s up-the-road neighbor George Fox University — another religiously affiliated institution — is offering potential Concordia transfers $5,000. Portland State University and Corban University (a private Christian university in Salem) have also offered their condolences and statements of their commitment to supporting transfer students coming from Concordia.

A transfer fair for students sponsored by Concordia and the Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universities will be hosted at the university on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Concordia also had a competitive nursing program, and some have wondered if Linfield’s program will be impacted by the closure.

Concordia’s closure is in no way beneficial to Linfield.”

— Kimberly Jones, Dean of Nursing

“I anticipate that some students who had planned to study nursing at Concordia will apply to Linfield,” said Kimberly Jones, dean of nursing. “At this point, they will be considered in the applicant pool with our applicants transferring from schools other than Linfield. Students attending McMinnville will not be ‘bumped’ in order to accommodate Concordia students,” she said. 

Despite this, there isn’t room for all of the transfer students potentially interested in nursing. 

“Concordia has at least 115 accelerated students who are slated to finish their education in August 2020,” Jones said. “There are another 80 traditional BSN students who are currently juniors and will finish their education in May 2021. Linfield Portland campus is at capacity. We currently enroll 72 new nursing students each fall, 72 each spring and 56 new students in the summer.  Unfortunately, we do not have the faculty, staff, clinical sites or simulation space to add the Concordia students.” 

However, Linfield’s work doesn’t ease the pain of Concordia graduate students now forced to search for other master’s programs.

Anna Penttila graduated from Linfield last May with a degree in education. She looked forward to teaching near her home-town of Vancouver, Washington, and in August enrolled in Concordia’s accelerated one-year online master’s of education in career and technical education program.

She was in the final week of her fifth class when she got the notice that Concordia was closing. Her class was allowed to finish but would be dissolved after the current semester. 

“The staff at Concordia was notified of the closure one hour before the students, so they had no plans lined up for us and couldn’t answer our questions,” Penttila said. “I’ve tried contacting everyone I could at Concordia for answers, but emails and voicemails have been unanswered.” 

“The only way I was able to get some answers was to go to the campus in person, which is impossible for many of my online classmates,” she said. “This closure is very sudden and many of us don’t know our next step.”

Penttila is concerned that she doesn’t have time to find a new program to transfer into, let alone one as specialized as this one. She is able to attend the program by a scholarship offered through the school district she works for and couldn’t benefit from it if she transferred to another master’s program.

“Undergrad students can transfer fairly easily and have plenty of options, but those of us in a very specific and rare program are left hanging,” Penttila said. “I just hope all of my credits transfer, because I have worked hard and invested a lot of money for this degree.”

And Jones hesitates to conclude that this closure could be positive for Linfield, calling for compassion from other institutions.

“My heart goes out to all the students and the staff and faculty at Concordia who suddenly and unexpectedly learned that their career plans or careers were radically altered Monday,” said Jones. “We are in a national nursing shortage– we need the Concordia nursing students to be able to join our profession.”

“Concordia’s closure is in no way beneficial to Linfield,” she concluded.

Concordia had boasted of stabilized enrollment on its Portland campus, a new interim president, and had few indications of the trouble it was in (including administrative turnover and a deal with an online master’s program). 

Linfield itself has changed its tone regarding its financial state following one strong incoming class and potential expansion into master’s programs, as promoted by The Oregonian

The closure of Concordia University-Portland campus will serve as a warning sign to similar institutions within Oregon and across the country.