RENSSELAER — The St. Joseph’s College Board of Trustees said in a statement this week that it’s time for the college to look ahead after shuttering operations three years ago this month.
The college is doing just that through what it calls a two-pronged approach. By partnering with peer institutions like Ivy Tech, it has been able “to develop the St. Joseph’s University Center, along with founding the St. Joseph’s Career College, both housed on the Rensselaer campus.”
The board believes this is part of its ambitious three-year plan, which is “based on sound financial principles” to bring life back to the campus since the college was forced to close its doors in 2017 due to “lagging enrollment” and considerable debt.
“Since regaining our accreditation is the single biggest hurdle standing in the way of ‘normalizing’ academic programming on the Rensselaer campus,” the board said in its statement, “a bold, innovative and forward-thinking approach is necessary to jump-start that process.”
Before jumping ahead, the college took a look back as well when it made its decision to wind down operations “as responsibly as possible” by:
• Finishing out the 2017 school year after it was announced in February of that year it would close its doors;
• Graduating seniors in May of 2017 and helping students transfer to other colleges; and
• Covering severance, salaries and benefits for its employees affected by the closing.
The college also reached settlements with debt holders “to resolve its outstanding obligation, developed a new Board of Trustees, reduced ongoing expenses and continues to maintain the campus.”
Ivy Tech currently uses the school’s Core Building for a handful of classes, including communication courses, English composition and Microsoft Excel training. Those classes will continue in March.
Also this winter, SJC began enrolling local and northwest Indiana residents in Certified Nursing Assistant, Clinical Medical Assistant, EKG tech training and Phlebotomy tech training courses on campus as part of the Allied Health program at the school.
These are 6-18 week courses. CNAs are required to take 30 hours of classroom time and 75 hours of hands-on clinical training.
The Core Building will serve as home base for both the University Center and Career College.
The University Center will be focused on offering degree-center programs, the school said.
“This will start with a two-year associate degree Anchor Program that can either stand on its own, funnel into a bachelor’s degree at St. Joe’s or transfer out of one of our Partner Institutions,” the board said.
“We hope to start offering these courses with our University Partner(s) in the fall of 2021, with plans to expand the offerings with a four-year bachelor’s program in the fall of 2023.”
The Career College will focus on offering non-degree professional certifications like CNA and tech training classes that are set to begin this spring.
The center and career college are a means to an end for the school as it seeks to retain accreditation.
“(The centers) will let St. Joseph’s College bring academic life back to the Rensselaer campus by allowing us to offer courses taught by our Partner Institutions under their accreditation umbrella,” the board concluded. “This will provide the groundwork and generate the income necessary to apply for Accreditation Eligibility Status in spring 2024.
“In all cases, academic majors and professional certification will be based on community need and interest.”