Courtesy of Concordia University

Concordia University Portland to close down

Private college closes its doors this spring

After 115 years, Concordia University Portland will close its doors for good, ending all classes and operations in a few short months. 


The university, a private Lutheran college in Northeast Portland, made the announcement on Feb. 10 with a video and statement first posted on their website. The Board of Regents, the college’s governing body, voted on Feb. 7 for the school to close after the Spring 2020 term. CU’s last day of classes will take place on April 24, with their final commencement ceremony for students on April 25.  


The 24-acre campus will be returned to the The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a Christian denomination the school is affiliated with, who is expected to sell the property. 


CU Interim President Thomas Ries said in the statement, “After much prayer and consideration of all options to continue Concordia University Portland’s 115-year legacy, the Board of Regents concluded that the university’s current and projected enrollment and finances make it impossible to continue its educational mission…We have come to the decision this is in the best interest of our students, faculty, staff and partners.”


CU’s media contact, Liz Louhan, was contacted for comment. In an email, she said that Concordia University has currently shared all of their available information online. 


“We are now highly focused on helping our faculty, staff and students with their transition plans,” she stated. 


CU currently has nearly 6,000 students enrolled. If they are unable to graduate after the school’s final term, they will have to transfer to a new university in order to continue their education. According to Concordia’s website, in 2018, 1,569 of their students were in undergraduate programs, while 4,305 were graduate students. 


According to an article by The Oregonian, only about 1,200 students attend classes on campus, while the majority of the students are in programs that take place completely online, where enrollment rates for CU have seen the greatest decline. 1,518 employees will also be laid off due to the closure, which will gradually take place beginning this month and end in September. 


CU wrote in their statement that increasing financial difficulties and a “changing educational landscape” are the school’s primary reasons for shutting their doors. According to an article by Oregon Public Broadcasting, a decline in the number of online students is also to blame, and chances for the college to recover from their circumstances were slim. 


According to Ries, who became CU’s Interim President on Jan. 1, the school no longer has the capacity to borrow more money than it already has, and would need to hit enrollment rates that CU was unlikely to achieve in order to continue operating. Instead, the decision was made to close CU while they still had the resources to support students during their transition.


On Feb. 18, students walked out of classes in protest of the sudden announcement to close, frustrated that the school did not make their financial situation clear and did not offer clear support for students and staff. At least one student has also begun filing a class-action lawsuit against CU. 

Portland State’s response


Various schools across Oregon are offering additional support to CU students, including Portland State. 


PSU released a statement on Feb. 17, announcing that the school would offer several benefits to students transferring from Concordia University. 


According to their website, “During this time of uncertainty, PSU wants to extend itself as a partner to Concordia University students. We have been long-time academic and civic partners, and PSU is committed to providing any assistance required by the university or its students during this difficult time.”


Undergraduate students will have their application fee waived, housing application fees deferred, as well as receive a $300 credit towards housing on campus. International students will have their English proficiency requirement waived, as well as a guaranteed $4,500 in merit-based scholarships. Graduate students will also have their application fee waived, the deadline to apply to programs extended and may also receive up to $5,000 in tuition remission scholarships. 


PSU will also hold a Transfer Open House event specifically for Concordia Students on March 10, giving students the opportunity to meet with admissions and financial counselors, as well as tour the campus.