Feds intervene as financial turmoil worsens at Union Institute

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by MaceWindu, Aug 25, 2023.

  1. MaceWindu

    MaceWindu Active Member

    Expert: Students should consider 'borrower defense' claim

    CINCINNATI — The U.S. Department of Education has imposed new financial restrictions on Union Institute & University, requiring it to “pay all federal student aid credit balances” before the department will disburse new federal student aid to the school.

    Union President Karen Schuster Webb obliquely referred to the new restrictions Thursday in an email that informed employees the school will delay their second straight paycheck Aug. 25.

    “Just recently Union was informed that the university will not be able to draw down government funds, which include tuition, until after the Fall Semester starts,” Webb wrote. “This is devastating news for all of us, but that said, Union remains open and fully accredited. We are exploring all options, including pathways for partnerships that would provide sustainability.”

    In an Aug. 18 email to the WCPO 9 I-Team, the federal agency said it placed Union Institute on the “Heightened Cash Monitoring 2” payment method Aug. 9. The designation followed student complaints that Union Institute used their student loan refunds to cover payroll expenses.

    ‘Heightened cash monitoring means the Department of Education basically said we’re not sure everything is entirely above board with the college,” said Preston Cooper, senior fellow in higher education policy for the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, a nonprofit think tank based in Austin, Tex. “It could be a sign that it’s in financial trouble or there could be something else that the department is investigating.”

    Cooper said 40 U.S. colleges are currently facing the HCM2 designation, which often precedes a school’s closure or merger with another institution.

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  2. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    This is the start of the tough-principal movie. The school's falling apart. Then the tough new principal gets in and cleans up shop. Maybe ex-military.
    Dustin likes this.
  3. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I hope it's that simple, but the lesson many institutions are learning these days is that sometimes you just run out of time.
    Dustin and Jonathan Whatley like this.
  4. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    That is scary. Athabasca was almost insolvent a few years ago but luckily turned it around.
  5. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Athabasca has the benefit of taxpayers as a backstop. Schools like Union... not so much.
  6. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    Union Institute & University Delays Start of Semester (Josh Moody, Inside Higher Ed, August 29, 2023)
  7. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    It's good to have multiple sources of income.
    MaceWindu likes this.
  8. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Yes. But....

    It's exactly what National University did to save itself. They ousted the founder, brought in a retired Marine general, reorganized, lopped off unsupportable programs, closed unsupportable locations, sold land, and came out way ahead with smooth sailing ever since.

    However, Union has always operated on thin ice financially. When the UECU was formed, it soon (c. 1973) created The Union Graduate School as its doctoral teaching arm, with UECU awarding the degrees. It was quickly granted candidacy for regional accreditation. However, the school was soon afterwards (c. 1979) sued into bankruptcy, delaying its eventual full accreditation another 6 years.

    Since then, the tuition-driven, relatively small university has had many ups and downs, including acquiring and selling a school, property, etc. The debacle with the Ohio Board of Regents in the early 2000's didn't help, either.

    It's weakness has always been its administration (including finances), not academics. (The OBR was dead wrong about a lot of things.) But you have to do the business things right in order to have the education.

    This might be it for the grand experiment. Some would say the "real" Union died when the OBR struck and largely killed the learner-centered PhD. Others think it was when they purged the old-school faculty. But it should have survived like so many of its peers (Fielding, Saybrook, CIIS, et al). But it looks like it won't.

    As for merger, I'm not sure about that. There's not much "there" there, and what is there doesn't fit elsewhere.
  9. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    Goddard College, when another school experiences financial or administrative crisis:

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  10. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I looked into this a bit more. This has been going on for months. I have to wonder if this is all due to incompetent management. The school has operated at a net loss every year since the current president took over. Prior to that, the school had experienced several years of net gains.

    Not coincidentally, it was Roger Sublett who left as Union president at the time. Roger had saved Union when the Ohio Board of Regents tried to crush it. He addressed their concerns and made them go away--wiping out the original, learner-based design in the process. As I mentioned above, many felt Union died at that time. But Roger DID save it financially and ran it well.

    Perhaps the school's troubles are due to mismanagement. Perhaps they're due to lower enrollments (they are lower). Greater competition? Multiple causes? I don't know. But I'm disappointed the school had never put itself on a stronger financial footing and, when things did begin to go bad last year, they weren't open about things.

    It probably won't survive, and I'm a little sad about that.
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  11. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    For the record, I am "liking" these posts not because I approve of or enjoy the content but rather that I am supportive of the information being shared here on DI.
    Suss, MaceWindu and SteveFoerster like this.
  12. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    It's possible they have bad management, but they also mostly offer unconventional, humanities doctorates. Their selection of master's programs is a little better. Their name is kind of stupid, which might hurt in attracting students.
    Suss likes this.
  13. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Perhaps. But they've been offering the doctorate since 1973, with the current lineup largely coming into being 20 years ago. The name has been in place for 22 years. Their current financial situation began only since 2018. And they offer only one interdisciplinary doctorate in the humanities. The others are in education, applied health, and three other interdisciplinary degrees (none in humanities).
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  14. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I am not quite sure what you're looking at. They offer an EdD with three majors: applied nutrition and health education, higher education leadership, and educational leadership.

    They offer one PhD in interdisciplinary studies with multiple concentrations.

    Ethical & Creative Leadership (this is leadership studies mixed with ethics, which is philosophy, which is humanities)

    Educational Justice & Equity (education mixed with gender, ethnic, and LGBTQIA studies, which is humanities)

    Humanities & Culture (humanities)

    Public Policy & Social Change (public policy mixed with gender, sexuality and cultural studies, which is humanities)

    Martin Luther King Jr Studies (humanities)

    MLK scholars take core and advanced seminars on MLK’s leadership and legacy, encompassing intellectual, spiritual, moral, political, psychological and policy dimensions. \

    In the past few years, even state universities have eliminated humanities, education, and some social science programs due to low enrollment. It appears that prospective students are becoming more concerned about the marketability of their degrees.
  15. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Union was not a large school 10 years ago. It is following the trend of other small colleges that are hurting from a decline in college enrollment. Larger universities can handle a cyclical decline in enrollment, but I follow a few universities that are seeing record enrollment this year. That might be a sign of an upcoming economic downturn, or people are figuring out that it's not that easy to skip college and earn a high income. If people are returning to college for higher incomes during this period of high inflation, most are not going to be seeking humanities and education degrees. Education has already seen falling interest due to the current political climate.

    Union's consistent financial problems did start with the new president in 2018, but prior to that, they had only seen positive income for five straight years. It just so happens that the new president took over when there was a nationwide trend of declining enrollment that started in 2019 and was worsened by the pandemic.


    @SteveFoerster I'd like to hear your opinion on why ethnic/cultural studies, gender/sexuality studies, philosophy, and spirituality do not fall under humanities.
  16. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    These are the graduate certificate options that can be embedded in the PhD in interdisciplinary studies. Considering that it is a fact that ALL of their interdisciplinary concentrations are partially or fully humanities concentrations, it is natural that most of the embedded doctoral certificates are also in the humanities.

    • Creative Writing
    • Design Thinking
    • Educational Leadership
    • Ethics and Philosophy
    • Executive Leadership
    • Museum Studies
    • Women’s & Gender Studies
    MaceWindu likes this.
  17. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I don't hold that opinion, and am curious why you would expect that I do.
  18. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Did you not agree with Rich?
  19. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I don't see where he said that either.
  20. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    They ARE in the humanities. All of them are in the humanities. I clearly listed out each concentration. You can look at the curriculum and the descriptions. Heck, I could tell they were humanities programs just by looking at the titles.


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