Cincinnati Christian University will close its doors and stop offering classes after this semester. CCU, which was founded in 1924, announced the decision on its website Monday and also shared a letter with its 500-plus students advising them of the school’s desire to work with them to find new homes at accredited institutions.
To that end, CCU’s board of trustees also announced a partnership with Central Christian College of the Bible, Moberly, Mo. Under the arrangement, CCCB is offering to continue providing accredited training to CCU ministry students in Cincinnati through establishment of a CCCB extension campus in the spring. The extension site will also be open to new ministry students. (The Cincinnati extension site location has not been announced, but it will not be on CCU’s present campus.)
Current CCU ministry students will also be welcome to take online courses offered by CCCB; they can also explore transferring to that school’s campus in Missouri.
CCCB’s website states it “was asked to join this partnership by CCU’s Trustees because of its longstanding compatibility with CCU’s purpose: ‘to equip and train men and women for Christian service.’”
In addition to its new partnership with CCCB, CCU has also contacted several other schools as potential new transfer homes for its present ministry and non-ministry students.
“In preparing for this closure, we have reached out to over a dozen accredited institutions that would like to invite you to complete your education with them,” CCU wrote to students. “All of these schools are accredited, most by the Higher Learning Commission (CCU’s accrediting body) or other regional accreditors.”
In addition to Central Christian College of the Bible (accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education), CCU is making arrangements with these Restoration Movement Christian colleges: Hope International University (Fullerton, Calif.), Lincoln (Ill.) Christian University, Milligan College (in Tennessee), and Point University (West Point, Ga.).
CCU also listed seven other universities, all located within about 100 miles of Cincinnati, with which it is making arrangements: Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Kentucky); Cedarville (Ohio) University; Mount St. Joseph University (Cincinnati); Mount Vernon (Ohio) Nazarene University; Ohio Christian University (Circleville, Ohio); Thomas More University (Crestview Hills, Ky.); and Xavier University (Cincinnati).
“CCU is currently attempting to finalize teach-out and/or transfer agreements with the . . . institutions . . . and to have those agreements approved by the required regulators, including the Higher Learning Commission.”
‘SHOW-CAUSE ORDER’ SIGNALED TROUBLE
The closure announcement came after CCU’s board of trustees voted to withdraw from Higher Learning Commission accreditation after this fall. HLC had issued a “Show-Cause Order” this past summer giving the university one year to “demonstrate why its accreditation should not be withdrawn.” The school had been suffering from declining attendance, flagging finances, and drops in retention and graduation rates during recent years, as we reported in July. The addition of football as a sport in 2015, for example, was particularly expensive but did not spark the desired growth, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
The HLC also expressed concern that CCU president Ron Heineman was not only leading the university but also functioning as chief restructuring officer of Central Bank & Trust, the university’s primary lender. In a letter to Heineman, HLC also noted a “lack of transparency of Board operations, evidenced by no public meeting minutes reporting the Board’s decisions.”
“CCU realizes this decision [to close] will greatly impact students and employees, but also views it as the best possible stewardship of the resources and opportunities God has provided,” CCU wrote on its website Monday. “Over the past two decades, it has become increasingly difficult to provide accredited ministry programs at a reasonable cost in a metropolitan location. CCU has approached this challenge by exploring mergers, adding other programs, and expanding athletic programming to attract more students. These strategies have allowed the school to serve new populations but have not overcome the financial challenges that face many private, residential colleges today.”
CCU’s website contains only information about the partnership with CCCB, a copy of the letter it shared with students, and a “Resources” page where students and alumni can request transcripts, and where graduates can order replacement diplomas. Other information—such as faculty members’ names and contact information, scheduled events, news stories, history, etc.—no longer resides there.
A spirited discussion is occurring, however, in the comments section beneath the partnership announcement on Cincinnati Christian University’s Facebook page.
TWO ENTITIES THAT WILL REMAIN
Even after Cincinnati Christian University is gone, two entities associated with the school will continue on: the CCU Foundation and the Center for Church Leadership.
The CCU Foundation is “currently organized as a legally separate entity underneath Cincinnati Christian University”; it contains the Center for Church Leadership and other ministry support services for the Christian church.
As explained on CCCB’s website, “the university [CCU] will cease to operate as an accredited institution. However, [CCU] and the Foundation will help CCCB establish its own accredited extension site in Cincinnati to educate ministry students.”
The president of Central Christian College of the Bible, Dr. David Fincher, has been appointed president of CCU Foundation, and “in the coming months, Dr. Fincher will lead in the establishment of a new Foundation board with financial resources distinct from [CCU].”
“All CCCB and CCU Foundation fundraising efforts will remain separate,” according to CCCB’s website. “This means gifts to CCCB will support the current work in Moberly, while gifts to the CCU Foundation will help underwrite the cost of the Cincinnati extension site.”
As for the Center for Church Leadership, Tim Wallingford will continue as its director. CCL “currently serves over 800 congregations nationwide. [It] is led by its own staff and Advisory Council, and collaborates with leading Restoration Movement churches and organizations,” according to CCU’s website. “In 2020, the CCL will launch major new initiatives in congregational consulting, clergy search, and directory services, and hopes to include over 2,000 churches in its network by 2021.”
Said CCU board of trustees chairman Chris Hahn, “Our team will be working hard in the next several months to serve CCU’s current students, work together with the CCL, and build a collaborative model of Christian higher education for ministry training in the 21st century.”