Marygrove College announced that it will be shutting its doors at the end of its autumn 2019 semester.

Marygrove College announced that it will be shutting its doors at the end of its autumn 2019 semester.

File photo provided by Dan Boulware

Marygrove College in Detroit announces closure

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published July 12, 2019


DETROIT — Marygrove College, which stood as a pillar of education in Detroit for 92 years, announced June 12 that it would permanently close at the end of its fall 2019 semester.

Representatives of the Catholic graduate college, which is sponsored by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, said that the closing is due to a continuing decline in student enrollment and persistent financial struggles.

The college changed its model in January 2018 to become a graduate-studies-only institution, ending all of its undergraduate programs. The hope by administrators was that this would cut costs and encourage enrollment by focusing on graduate studies, but they now say it was not enough.

“Marygrove’s grand experiment to transition to graduate-only studies was a brave and bold attempt to continue to serve students,” Marygrove President Dr. Elizabeth Burns stated in a press release. “However, intensive marketing and recruitment efforts have failed to attract enough students. Coupled with a heavy debt burden, the low enrollment numbers provide insufficient revenue to continue operations into the future.”

Dr. John Cavanaugh, chairperson of the Marygrove Board of Trustees, said there were a number of reasons that the transition to graduate-only classes was not as successful as anticipated.

“I think there’s multiple reasons. For a number of years now, states have no longer required all teachers to have education master’s degrees, and there’s fewer scholarships and so forth because of that and less interest,” he said. “The economy also was a factor. There also were issues with the Higher Learning Commission where we weren’t sure if we could maintain accreditation. (This) was also a big factor. By the time the process to reevaluate this matter was complete and we were in full standing again, it was a year later.”

Burns added that efforts are being taken to assist those still enrolled at Marygrove.

“Our 305 current students have been informed of the college’s impending closure,” she wrote. “In compliance with Higher Learning Commission requirements, Marygrove has entered into a teach-out agreement with Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and will enter into agreements with other institutions as needed to ensure that Marygrove students who are within one year of degree completion can do so through one of our teach-out partner schools. The agreements are pending approval by the HLC. All students will receive financial aid counseling and academic advising.”

School administrators said they are doing everything in their power to accommodate students and ensure their education can be completed and their time at Marygrove not wasted.

“We’re working with students (on) who to talk to, to help with academic advising,” said Cavanaugh. “We’re providing whatever assistance we can to finish their programs by December, if possible. If not possible, we are helping transition them in a ‘teach out’ program to finish their courses at Oakland University. If they want to transfer somewhere else, we will help them via advisers to do whatever we can to assist them with that transition.”

Cavanaugh also said staff members are being assisted with job transitions and any questions they may have with their severance amounts.

The historic grounds of Marygrove College will be maintained by the newly formed Marygrove Conservancy and used by other educational entities.

Sister Jane Herb, president of the Immaculate Heart of Mary congregation, will be among those to oversee the conservancy.

“The Marygrove Conservancy will be a new, separate entity,” she said. “(The conservancy) will assume ownership of the buildings and grounds. We are working with the University of Michigan, Detroit Public Schools, the Kresge Foundation and some other organizations to work together to continue to meet the needs of the people of Detroit and establish a cradle-to-career attitude toward education. Detroit Public Schools will begin with ninth grade classes on the campus this year and add a grade over the next three years; an early childhood center will be established; Detroit Public Schools will establish classes on campus for grades kindergarten through the eighth grade; and the University of Michigan will be assisting teachers in the public schools in professional development and classroom assistance.”

Herb said that she, like all those who helped administer the school, is saddened by the closure and is hoping the efforts by the conservancy will provide some solace so that the venerable institution can continue to be a pillar of education and culture in Detroit.

“We hoped and prayed that this announcement would never have to be made,” said Herb. “Since the founding of the college in Monroe in 1905, and for the past 92 years, we have been proud of the educational program that Marygrove College offered in the city of Detroit. We are committed to working with the administration of the college to assist the students, faculty and staff during this difficult transition. The IHM congregation is grateful to the alums of Marygrove and all who have been part of the rich history of the college for more than nine decades in Detroit.”