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Notre Dame College (NDC) is closing its doors after 102 years as a university. Not to be confused with Notre Dame University, NDC is a small private Roman Catholic institution located in South Euclid, Ohio. NDC announced that it will be shut down at the end of the 2024 Spring semester.

Notre Dame College was founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, serving as a women’s college until 2001, when they made the school co-ed. The college is located just 25 minutes outside of Cleveland in Northeast Ohio. While the majority of the student body is from Ohio, NDC represents students from 35 states and 21 other countries.

The announcement was made on Feb. 29 by the Mountain East Conference (MEC) Commissioner, Reid Amos, saying, “On behalf of the Mountain East Conference, we are deeply saddened by today’s announcement that Notre Dame College will conclude in-person instruction at the end of the 2024 spring semester, bringing a more than century-old tradition of higher education to a close.”

Questions surrounding Notre Dame College’s vitality began to arise when former President J. Michael Pressimone resigned in Nov. 2023 to “pursue new opportunities.” Pressimone served as the president of the university for three years before unexpectedly resigning.

As of 2024, there are only 1,050 full-time students enrolled at Notre Dame College. Enrollment had fallen by more than half since the Fall of 2014 when the college had 2,281 students enrolled. NDC cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst for the enrollment and financial issues that the university has been faced with. In a new statement, officials pointed out the affects of the pandemic and called out declining demographics and “growing costs.” Though the school had been struggling with debt for the past few years, the announcement was sudden, coming just months before the end of the college’s final semester.

According to University Business, “A small private, often religiously oriented liberal arts college struggling with a poor budget deficit can no longer rely on a regional pool of traditional-aged college students due to demographic changes. With numbers already pointing downward, the pandemic inflamed national enrollment declines, dramatically shortening administrators’ window to react and leaving far fewer students to enroll to stop the bleeding. In dire straits, the college has no option but to negotiate a merger or acquisition. If it fails, it shuts its doors. Centuries of serving higher education erased.”

In a press conference regarding Notre Dame College’s closing, Interim President John Smetanka said, “We are all saddened by the need to make this decision, but rest assured that as we move forward, we are doing everything we can to ensure a smooth transition for our students to continue their education.”

Notre Dame College’s Board of Trustees announced a “teach-out program” with nine other partner colleges and universities to help currently enrolled students in good standing continue their education as transfer students through the program. NDC students can finish out their
degrees and have their credits accepted at these institutions.

The institutions taking part in this teach out program include Baldwin Wallace University, Cleveland State, Hiram College, John Carroll University, Kent State University, Lake Erie College, Ursuline College, Walsh University and
Mercyhurst University.

Students in good standing with more than 60 credits (about two years worth of classes) will be guaranteed admission to the partnered universities. All credits will transfer over and tuition costs will be comparable. Students with fewer credits can transfer to one of the colleges or universities and receive the same benefits as the teach-out program.

The closure will affect 50 full-time faculty, 150 part-time faculty, 100 full-time staff and 70 part-time staff, as well as the 900 undergraduate students enrolled in the university that are not graduating
this Spring.

Notre Dame College is not the first university to announce its closing in 2024. NDC joins Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts and Cabrini College, both of which announced their closures last year and will graduate their final classes in Spring 2024.

Among the 15 non-profit institutions that announced their closures in 2023, 10 were religiously affiliated. Of these 10, four were Catholic, which is the only denomination represented multiple times in this year’s round of closures.

NDC’s official website displays the statement, “Throughout this long process, we evaluated every possible option to continue the mission of Notre Dame College”, said Terri Bradford Eason, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “Our primary focus has been to ensure our students can successfully continue their education, graduate, and – in the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame – live a life of personal, professional and global responsibility.”

More than 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States are facing the same dilemma that Notre Dame College currently faces. Like most other institutions across the country, many Catholic institutions are seeing an all-time low in student enrollment. Many believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a part in these low numbers, with others citing the shrinking pool of prospective students.

South Euclid Mayor, Georgine Welo, said in a statement, “The decision comes as a profound loss to our community, marking the end of an era rich in academic excellence, tradition and community engagement.”