RENSSELAER, Ind. — St. Joseph’s College alumni are trying to figure out how they can keep their alma mater open despite plans to temporarily suspend operations due to financial trouble.
Alumni say they knew little about the college’s financial standing before the board of trustees decided Feb. 3 to close for at least the 2017-18 school year.
“There was never any information about how dire it was,” said Bridgette Jenkins, who graduated from the school in 2007.
Trustees chairman Benedict Sponseller said the institution has operated on a $4 million to $5 million deficit annually for several years. He said the board decided to close because of the college’s severe debt, its risk of losing accreditation and increased pressure from auditors that could have affected student loans.
Alumna Elysse Hillyer says she and others are trying to contact board members to see if there’s any way to reverse the decision. A Facebook page she started for the college community posted a message from the Alumni Association Board of Directors saying it’s investigating whether the suspension can be prevented and if alumni can raise funds to do so.
“We are aware that independent action is being taken to closely and legally review this ‘temporary suspension,’” the message said.
Jackie Bradway, a member of the association, said the association is also trying to arrange a question-and-answer session with Sponseller and President Robert Pastoor for the alumni.
People on social media have said closing was part of the college’s plan all along. Pastoor has denied what he called “conspiracies” occurring among the school’s leaders.
“I can categorically deny there are no conspiracies going on. I was not hired to do this,” said Pastoor, who started his role in March 2015. “I would not have moved my family to Rensselaer, Indiana, and bought a house here two years ago for me to do this. That is not what I was hoping to do as a president of a college.”