Newman may gain students after college closing

THE CLOSING OF ST. GREGORY'S UNIVERSITY has opened Newman for prospective students. Courtesy photo,

Newman University may get a few new students next semester after the closing of St. Gregory’s University in Oklahoma. 

St. Gregory’s, the only private Catholic university in Oklahoma, announced on Nov. 8 that it would be closing its doors for good at the end of the fall semester.

The school, founded in 1875, has about 550 full-time students, and about 110 faculty members. 

Students who wish to continue their education in the spring semester are now in a race against the clock to decide where they are going to go. Several of them are looking at Newman University.

“We wanted to respond right away, not necessarily to proactively recruit students, but for Saint Gregory’s students who might find Newman another good option, especially if they were specifically looking to continue their education at a Catholic college, we wanted to give them every opportunity…to make it easier for them,” said Newman’s Director of Undergraduate Admissions Kristen English. 

English said so far there are about a dozen St. Gregory’s students who have expressed interest in transferring to Newman. She said some of them have applied, and some are still deciding. 

“Personally I think or students are very welcoming… for those St Gregory’s students who end up with us, I hope and I really believe we can make this feel like home for them,” she said.

English also said the Admissions office is considering putting on a separate orientation for St. Gregory’s students if a significant number of them transfer to Newman.

Most of the interest comes from undergraduates, English said, because students who are closer to finishing their degree are looking for “Teach-Out” options. 

“Teach-Out” is an agreement between colleges where seniors who are on track to graduate can be exempt from specific curriculum requirements at the university they transfer to so that they can complete their degree on time. These agreements must be made formally and submitted to the Higher Learning Commission for review and approval.

Provost Kimberly Long said via email that Newman was asked by St Gregory’s to consider a teach-out option for a theology program serving adult, non-traditional students in religious formation.

“We are reviewing whether that is a good fit for us and are considering their request, but have not yet agreed to it,” she said. 

There is a troubling nationwide trend of small private colleges having to close because of insufficient funds, English said, but Newman is watching very closely to make sure the University stays financially viable in the long term. 

“Small private colleges like Newman and St. Gregory’s are overwhelmingly tuition dependent. Eighty-four percent of every dollar of our operating budget…comes from our tuition revenue, because we don’t receive, as a private college, state appropriated funds.” English said. 

President Noreen Carrocci said students do not need be even remotely worried about Newman closing like St. Gregory’s.

In an email addressed to all students before Thanksgiving break, Carrocci said “Newman University is in good standing and has a bright future ahead,” even though “many private colleges and universities throughout the country are dealing with serious economic challenges.”

When the Higher Learning Commission reaffirmed Newman’s accreditation this year, Newman met all criteria, including a criterion on financial resources, with no recommendations for improvement. 

“They underscored our fiscal stability and consistency… they could have approved us with recommendations for improvements in any of the criteria and sub-criteria… basically we got straight As.” Carrocci said.

Carrocci said Newman puts a lot of focus on its transfer students, and Newman would be a good fit for transfers from St. Gregory’s. 

“You would find a similar environment of a Catholic university committed to the education of the whole person and academic quality that is incomparable,” she said.

This story first appeared in the November 30, 2017 issue of The Vantage.