Marygrove College today announced that it will permanently close in December at the end of the Fall 2019 semester. The Catholic graduate college, sponsored by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), will close due to a continuing decline in student enrollment and persistent financial struggles. Marygrove has served as a higher education institution since its inception in 1905 as St. Mary’s College in Monroe, Michigan, and in the city of Detroit for 92 years.
Historically tuition-dependent, the college’s Corporate Board in August 2017 made the difficult decision to close its undergraduate programs due to similar enrollment pressures and the resulting financial impacts. At that time, the board made the unprecedented decision to keep the college’s graduate degree and professional development programs in Education, Human Resource Management and Social Justice intact with the belief that those programs were sustainable.
Marygrove President Dr. Elizabeth Burns said, “Marygrove’s grand experiment to transition to graduate-only studies was a brave and bold attempt to continue to serve students. However, intensive marketing and recruitment efforts have failed to attract enough students. Coupled with a heavy debt burden, the low enrollment numbers provide insufficient revenue to continue operations into the future.”
“Our 305 current students have been informed of the college’s impending closure,” Burns said. “In compliance with Higher Learning Commission requirements, Marygrove has entered into a teach-out agreement with Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and will enter into agreements with other institutions as needed to ensure that Marygrove students who are within one year of degree completion can do so through one of our teach-out partner schools. The agreements are pending approval by the HLC. All students will receive financial aid counseling and academic advising.”
Burns said that faculty and staff were also notified today of the closure decision. “Efforts are also underway to assist our dedicated faculty and staff with employment counseling as they make this life and professional transition,” she said.
Dr. John Cavanaugh, chairperson of the Marygrove Board of Trustees, said, “Though the Board’s decision to close the College permanently was the most difficult in its history, we are proud that our legacy of education and activism in the city of Detroit will endure and is already bearing fruit with the start of the new Detroit public high school, ‘The School at Marygrove,’ beginning in September and the forthcoming groundbreaking for the new early childhood education center on the Marygrove campus.”
Cavanaugh cited partnerships with other entities and the creation of the Marygrove Conservancy as a creative solution to preserving the historic campus grounds for urban education, a core concern of the college since its founding. “We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our sponsors, the IHM sisters, for their decades of financial and moral support, and prayers. We have seen our alumni make a positive impact on our world by living out the values of this amazing College,” he said.
“I speak for my colleague trustees when I say that, despite this decision, we are proud that we will see the educational mission of the IHM Sisters continue on this campus through the Marygrove Conservancy and its partnership with The Kresge Foundation, Detroit Public Schools Community District, Starfish Family Services, University of Michigan’s School of Education, and IFF, a mission-driven developer that creates opportunities for low-income communities and people with disabilities.
“Again, stepping into the unknown and the challenging, Marygrove and its partners created the P-20 concept, creating the unique cradle-to-career campus we see beginning to be constructed on this beautiful land. So many generations have been touched by Marygrove and we know in our hearts that many more will benefit from her commitment to Detroit and its citizens.”
Marygrove’s community outreach programs like the Contemporary American Authors Lecture Series, the Institute for Detroit Studies, and our Institute for Music and Dance will go on as scheduled through the 2019. Planning will take place to ensure these programs continue into 2020 and beyond.
Sister Mary Jane Herb, IHM, president of the IHM congregation, said, “We hoped and prayed that this announcement would never have to be made. Since the founding of the College in Monroe in 1905 and for the past 92 years, we have been proud of the educational program that Marygrove College offered in the city of Detroit. We are committed to working with the administration of the College to assist the students, faculty and staff during this difficult transition. The IHM congregation is grateful to the alums of Marygrove and all who have been part of the rich history of the College for more than nine decades in Detroit.
“As a partner in the P-20 initiative, we undertook something very courageous and novel, one that involved a certain amount of ‘letting go.’ Now, we are being asked to move further along the path of that ‘leap of faith’ into the future. The path of what P-20 urban education can and should be is still unfolding. I have confidence that ‘the dream will continue’ even though it does entail another ‘letting go.’"
“Marygrove College has been filling a unique and vital niche in higher education in Detroit since we opened the doors in 1927,” Burns said. “When we made the decision to forge on with graduate programs, we were confident and hopeful. Those of us who love Marygrove will be helped in coming to grips with this decision knowing that the Sisters’ mission of education will continue on in this special place. This is indeed an incredibly sad and heartbreaking day for everyone: Marygrove, higher education, our alumni, students, faculty, staff, our neighbors and the city of Detroit. But the spirit of those who came before will imbue the Marygrove values in those who come after.”