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Not Even Oceanfront Views Can Stave Off Universities' Financial Woes

An aerial shot of a college campus includes buildings and tennis courts. The Pacific Ocean can be seen in the background.
Marymount California University will close after 50 years.
(Image via Marymount California University)
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Marymount California University, a private Catholic university in Rancho Palos Verdes, will close at the end of this summer.

University officials attributed the decision to the COVID-19 pandemic, declining enrollment, rising costs and a failed merger with Saint Leo University, in Florida.

The university announced the closure in a letter last month, in advance of its final graduation ceremony held earlier in May.

"This is absolutely heartbreaking news for me to share," MCU president Brian Marcotte wrote. "I want to assure you we looked strongly into many possibilities to keep the doors open longer, including other university partnerships, real estate transactions and phased approaches to closing. Unfortunately, every path was fraught with potential operational and timing issues that simply would not allow us to achieve the level and quality of education that we as stewards of the university feel a responsibility to provide our students."

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According to Higher Ed Dive, since 2016, six California colleges and universities have closed or merged, including San Francisco Art Institute and Mills College both this year alongside MCU.

Marymount California University's history is one of constant change. In 1932, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary — an order of Roman Catholic nuns — founded Marymount Junior College. A decade and a half later, that school turned into the four-year, all-women Marymount College.

In the 1960s, Marymount College affiliated with Loyola University, which was then a men’s campus, in order to create a co-ed university. That merger formed what would soon become Loyola Marymount University — and on a new campus, too. On the old campus was left a two-year college, Marymount Palos Verdes College, and that school became Marymount California University in 2013. In total, that's over five decades as its own institution.

Current students will have until August 31 to finish up any final business at MCU. The school has brokered agreements with more than five dozen schools to offer Marymount students transfer options to continue their education in the fall, including a majority of California State University schools and UC Merced.

MCU has been active on Twitter and Instagram posting resources about transition options and transfer information for students. Many partner schools have transfer options for both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as simplified application processes and waived costs and deadlines.

“We are deeply saddened to see the loss of Marymount California University, a Catholic liberal arts institution that has served a diverse population of students for over 50 years,” said Ann McElaney-Johnson, the president of Mount Saint Mary’s, the local all-women’s school that has agreed to take in MCU students in good academic standing. “We look forward to welcoming Marymount students to the Mount Saint Mary’s community this fall, and helping them every step of the way as they pursue their educational goals.”

Transfer schools have informational webinars running over the next several weeks.

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