Central Illinois college to close after 174 years

State News

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. (AP) – A central Illinois college will close its doors after 174 years due to declining enrollment and other financial challenges.

The State Journal-Register reports the chairman of the MacMurray College board of trustees said Friday the four-year liberal arts college in Jacksonville will close at the end of the spring semester. Charles O’Connell said there was no viable path forward for the college, citing rising costs and an insufficient endowment as factors.

The college currently has 527 full-time students and 101 faculty and staff.

Students already have moved off campus and are taking classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can read the full press release below:

The Board of Trustees of MacMurray College has voted unanimously to close the institution at the end of the spring semester, marking the end of its 174-year-old history.

Board of Trustees Chairman Charles O’Connell (’69) said despite the generosity of alumni giving in recent years, the Board determined MacMurray had no viable financial path forward in the wake of declining enrollments, rising competitive costs, and an insufficient endowment.

“The Board spent more than a year exploring financial scenarios and potential new sources for capital,” said Mr. O’Connell, adding MacMurray had developed a strategic plan to broaden its professional degree programs and reach more non-traditional students if it was able to remain open.

“However, despite our best efforts, we were unable to secure the capital to fund a viable path forward. We deeply regret this decision and are sorry for the disruption and disappointment it will have for everyone in the Mac Family.

“But the reality is this: we were left with no alternative and had only one responsible option,” he said.

Mr. O’Connell said the coronavirus pandemic and economic disruption it has caused were recent factors that complicated MacMurray’s financial condition, but they were not the principal reasons for the Board’s decision to close.

Mr. O’Connell said the Board has expressed its deep thanks to MacMurray College President Dr. Beverly Rodgers for her “valiant stewardship of MacMurray College during this challenging period. She has our full support during the demanding period to come as MacMurray closes its doors.”

“When I became the 17th president of MacMurray College last year, I knew we faced a tough financial future,” said Dr. Rodgers, “but I was determined to work with the Board to do everything we could to help MacMurray survive.

“This was one of the toughest challenges of my professional life, and I am so disappointed we couldn’t find a solution,” she said.

Dr. Rodgers will continue working with MacMurray’s accrediting agencies, including the Higher Learning Commission, to ensure seamless transitions for its more than 500 full-time students to seven nearby colleges and universities this fall. Dr. Rodgers and senior staff also will work to transition incoming freshmen and transfer students to other colleges and universities.

“Closing an institution like MacMurray is a demanding process that will involve countless decisions grounded in financial realities,” said Dr. Rodgers.

“In the coming days, I will share more information as decisions are reached and we will continue to communicate with students, faculty, staff and the entire MacMurray Family directly and by posting announcements and updates on the MacMurray website. (https://www.mac.edu/closure).

“For all our students, my goal is to make sure they leave MacMurray with honor and pride,” said Dr. Rodgers. “I will be especially proud of these seniors as our last graduating class.”

She said MacMurray has not made a decision on commencement, which is scheduled for May 9, but will do so as soon as possible and will be guided by orders from state authorities regarding public health and public gatherings.

“For our other students,” she said, “we stand ready to transition you to a school where you can complete your undergraduate educations without delay and build on what you learned at MacMurray.”

MacMurray has negotiated transfer agreements for its students with the following institutions, all of which are within a two-hour driving radius of its Jacksonville campus:

  • Blackburn College
  • Eureka College
  • Greenville University
  • Illinois College
  • McKendree University
  • Millikin University
  • Monmouth College

MacMurray College employs 101 people on a full-time basis. Monday, March 30 will be the first day of the required 60-day notice period prior to termination of faculty and staff positions. The official date of termination for most employees will be Monday, May 25. A limited number of employees will be approached about continuing employment beyond May 25 to help close the college.


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