Athletes in Shock After University Announces Closing

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Athletes at Concordia University will have to figure out their next move while playing out their seasons this spring.

The 115-year-old private university in Portland, Ore., announced Monday that it will close after the spring semester. According to Oregon Live, the Lutheran university’s Board of Regents voted last Friday to cease operations.

“After much prayer and consideration of all options to continue Concordia University - Portland’s 115-year legacy, the Board of Regents concluded that the university’s current and projected enrollment and finances make it impossible to continue its educational mission,” Interim President Dr. Thomas Ries said in the university press release. “We have come to the decision this is in the best interest of our students, faculty, staff and partners.”

Concordia’s baseball, softball, golf, and track and field teams will complete their seasons before the school closes, according to the Portland Tribune.

"It's shock at this point, and a little disbelief," said Evan O'Kelly, Concordia's sports information director. "We're just trying to stay oriented and focused on the task at hand and on continuing to do our jobs. It's difficult — you don't ever plan for something like this. You just want to do the best job you can with the time you have left and support the athletes. The key thing is we've all got to support each other through this."

The NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference will drop down to 10 member schools without Concordia, which competed in 15 of the GNAC’s 17 sports since joining the conference in 2014. Concordia hasn’t fielded a football or women’s rowing team.

“We found out the same time as everybody else, so this was news to us," GNAC assistant Commissioner Blake Timm said. "We are still figuring out what the next steps are going to be."

Ries said that Concordia has significant debt and the enrollment has declined from more than 8,000 to 5,000 in the last four years.

“The board’s decision is a result of years of mounting financial challenges and the changing educational landscape,” Concordia spokeswoman Liz Loulan said.

According to Oregon Live, Concordia student William Spaulding plans to sue the school for misleading students about its financial condition and leaving them without a way to graduate or directly transfer.

Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor announced Tuesday that it is working toward accepting all relevant incoming credits from students who were attending Concordia University Portland. The press release said that the school, which has campuses in Mequon, Wis. and Ann Arbor, Mich., is working toward accepting those students at a rate equal or lower than what they paid at Portland.

"Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor continues to be richly blessed in the midst of the challenges facing higher education today," said University President Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, PhD. "The loss of the Portland campus demonstrates the importance of proactively seeking solutions in order to not only survive, but to thrive as a healthy institution. This work has already begun at Concordia and will continue into the future."

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