Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Demise of Cincinnati Christian University

Learning that the North American Christian Convention is no more was quite a surprise. That was information I just stumbled across this past February, and then went looking for more information. Now, two months later, I've encountered more unexpected news from the independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. Cincinnati Christian University has closed.

Here's the breakdown of where they failed, according to a report by WCPO:
In a July letter, the commission’s board of trustees wrote to CCU president Ron Heineman that he would soon be required to make a compelling case for retaining accreditation. According to the letter, which can be viewed online, CCU:
  • Did not “operate with integrity in its financial, academic, personnel and auxiliary functions” or establish processes governing fair, ethical behavior among its employees. Significantly, Heineman himself held high-ranking positions with both CCU and Central Bank, its primary lender, where he worked as chief restructuring officer.
  • Was understaffed, employed faculty to teach graduate programs without proof of qualifications and failed to develop a plan for improvement. According to the letter, “student surveys conducted over several years indicate that students were significantly impacted by loss of faculty.”
  • Did not develop functional program reviews or data collection procedures for assessing and improving its courses.
  • Changed its mission statement “without a process suited to the nature and culture of the Institution,” then failed to clearly articulate or follow that mission.
  • Did not make a convincing case that it was prepared to support itself in the future, particularly financially. According to the letter, CCU lost $350,000 a month in 2015. By 2019, it remained financially fragile and did not meet the Office of Federal Student Aid’s standards of financial responsibility.
The letter requested CCU file a show-cause report making its case for continued accreditation no later than Dec. 1.  
It withdrew from accreditation instead.
On the face of it, this doesn't look good, so I assume there are some unpleasant details underneath. While I've poked around a little for details, I've decided not to explore it further, as there's nothing to gain from it. The publicly-available information is bad enough.

When the closure was announced, CCU students were told to look to other schools to finish their educations, and a list of possibilities was included in a letter to students. It is as follows:
Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Kentucky) 
Cedarville University (Cedarville, Ohio) 
Central Christian College of the Bible (Moberly, MO) 
Hope International University (Fullerton, CA) 
Lincoln Christian University (Lincoln, Illinois) 
Milligan College (Elizabethton, Tennessee) 
Mount St. Joseph University (Cincinnati, Ohio) 
Mount Vernon Nazarene University (Mt. Vernon, Ohio) 
Ohio Christian University (Circleville, Ohio) 
Point University (West Point, Georgia) 
Thomas More University (Crestview Hills, Kentucky) 
Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio)
While a few of these colleges are connected to the independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, most are not. That really doesn't matter to the students, of course. What hurts them is having to switch colleges and programs mid-stream.

For their part, the spin the CCU board has put on this is incredible, with this on the college's site.

That 'historic relationship' is with Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Missouri, which will be using the CCU campus as a branch location. [Full Disclosure: I attended CCCB in the mid-1990s.] CCCB is, as the name indicates, a Bible college. It isn't a liberal arts university, and there certainly isn't a lot in the way of science or arts education. While it is not regionally accredited, as CCU was in its final years, it is a member of the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the accrediting body for Bible colleges. The ABHE is recognized by the US government, and member schools are thus eligible to participate in federal student financial aid programs. Students graduating from such a school often find that while their degrees are generally accepted by theological seminaries, graduate programs at state universities tend to look askance at them. If CCCB proceeds with the plan to set up shop on the Cincinnati campus, they will essentially be bringing back what CCU was in the first place, before it attempted the transition from Bible college to liberal arts university.

While CCU appears to have suffered from some aggravating factors that contributed to its demise, what happened to it is in line with what small, private colleges across the United States are facing. Even before COVID-19 shut things down these schools were suffering from falling enrollment. Now, I fully expect a wave of closings before the end of 2020.


So Long North American Christian Convention