Marymount California University to close following attempted merger

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Diving Brief:

  • Marymount University of California will definitely close late August, he said last week in an announcement coming just days after a merger with another Catholic institution, Saint Leo University, fell apart.
  • Officials at Marymount in California said years of declining enrollment, coupled with rising operating costs and pandemic-induced stresses, caused the institution to demise.
  • The university said in a statement it would help students transition to other institutions for the fall, but did not say how it will do so. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Overview of the dive:

Marymount California, near Los Angeles, tried to survive by planning a merger with Saint Leo, based in Florida.

The deal had been in the works for months before the two institutions announced it in July. However, it fell through after Saint Leo’s accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, or SACSCOC, refused to sign the arrangement in December.

SACSCOC then said Saint Leo had not offered a plan sufficient to demonstrate that the merger would meet the accreditor’s standard of responsible budgeting.

Marymount California and Saint Leo said last week that the accreditor’s refusal had dealt a fatal blow to the agreement and that it would be canceled.

Shortly after the announcement, Marymount, California president Brian Marcotte said the university was hopeful about the next steps.

But like other small nonprofit colleges, Marymount in California has seen the pandemic crush its finances. Experts had predicted that this contingent of institutions would be the most vulnerable amid the crisis and among the most likely to close.

The university’s board of trustees debated options that would allow it to remain operational “but ultimately deemed those alternatives and their associated timelines impractical,” Marymount California said in a statement Friday.

“This is an extremely sad day for Marymount and for the lost heritage and traditions, both for our university community and for the local Palos Verdes area that we have called home for over 50 years,” Marcotte said in the press release. “This decision was not taken lightly. But we felt the most compassionate thing to do was to give everyone time to make plans.”

Now the university will try to connect faculty and staff with “new opportunities”, he said. It employs 140 full-time staff and enrolls 500 full-time students, the university said.

Marymount California was founded in 1968 as a two-year junior Catholic college and assumed its current name in 2013 as it expanded its campuses and bachelor’s and graduate degree offerings.

However, his finances have long been turbulent. It was operating with a deficit of $3.1 million in 2020, according to its most recent federal tax document available.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission in March 2016 renewed the university’s accreditation for six years. But he expressed “serious concerns” and said the institution should lay the groundwork for a new president to address outstanding issues, the most pressing being a financial shortfall.

The following month, Lucas Lamadrid became the university’s next president. He lasted less than two years as a result of accusations, he overspent university money and made racist, homophobic and sexist remarks. Marcotte took over the presidency in February 2018.

The university too abruptly stopped a campus he operated in Northern California in 2017.

The closure of Marymount in California is at least the second among small private colleges to be announced in recent weeks. Lincoln College, a predominantly black institution in Illinois, recently said the pandemic and a cyberattack had clouded its enrollment projections will force it to close in May.

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