By Chris Moon
The longtime site of now-closed Cincinnati Christian University is changing hands.
CCU’s 54-acre campus has been sold to IDEA Public Schools, a Texas company that operates 120 schools in Texas and Louisiana. The scenic Cincinnati campus eventually will house a K-12 public charter school with nearly 1,500 students, said Matthew Kyle, executive director for IDEA Cincinnati.
“This site was large enough to meet our programmatic needs for academics, enrollment, sports, and other extracurricular offerings,” Kyle said in an email to Christian Standard. “This site will be one of the largest—in terms of acreage—[of] all of IDEA Public Schools.”
The CCU campus comes with seven buildings totaling 241,000 square feet, as well as 630 parking spaces. The institution, originally known as Cincinnati Bible Seminary, had been located in the Price Hill neighborhood—“the largest and most populous suburb in the city,” according to a Christian Standard article from 1924—since the school’s founding that year.
Kyle declined to release a purchase price for the property.
CCU’S TROUBLES INCLUDED FINANCES, ACCREDITATION
CCU announced in October 2019 it would close after that fall semester after running into accreditation hurdles.
The university had been suffering from declining attendance, flagging finances, and drops in retention and graduation rates. The addition of football as a sport in 2015 proved an expensive addition to the college that did not spark the desired growth.
The Higher Learning Commission, an accrediting organization, also expressed concern that CCU president Ron Heineman was not only leading the university but also functioning as chief restructuring officer for the university’s primary bank lender.
CCU’s board of trustees voted to withdraw from the HLC and shutter the school, which had more than 500 students at the time.
Today, a year and a half later, the future of CCU’s physical campus is finally becoming clear.
Presumably, proceeds from the sale will go toward covering remaining debt CCU still has on the books. A CCU administrator did not return a call for comment.
Kyle, of IDEA, said the CCU campus was attractive to the company because of the community that surrounds it. IDEA boasts of a high college acceptance rate among its graduates, many of whom are economically disadvantaged.
“At IDEA, we place our schools in underserved communities to ensure that a child’s aspirations to go to college are not precluded by the zip code where they live,” Kyle said. “We want to make sure that all students have the option to go to college and are prepared to go to college when the time comes.”
IDEA will open its Cincinnati charter school for the 2022-23 school year. It has a target of enrolling roughly 112 students per grade.
Kyle said IDEA plans to renovate existing buildings on the CCU campus to meet its needs.
“Chiefly, we plan to renovate President’s Hall, Crouch Hall, and Worship Hall as the main buildings for our school,” he said.
‘THE END OF AN ERA’
David Fincher, president of Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Mo., called the sale “the end of an era for those who taught, worked, and lived on the campus.” He said it was “really good news” that the property would be used to benefit the neighborhood and the city of Cincinnati.
Fincher has been leading the Christian Church Leadership Foundation, which includes a few former CCU employees, to continue training ministry students in Cincinnati.
Fincher said the important collections from the old CCU library, as well as records and archives from the college, were maintained and acquired by CCCB. Those resources are part of the George Mark Elliott Library that is now located at the Christian Church Leadership Center in Florence, Ky., just south of Cincinnati.
“Much of the 20th-century history of the Restoration Movement is tied to the training on that campus and the work of its graduates,” Fincher said. “Having these resources ensures their stories and legacy can continue to inspire and inform future students, scholars, and ministers for our churches.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.