Catholic colleges work together to help students hit by closure

Washington D.C., May 28, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Two Catholic universities have struck up a plan to help students complete their degrees after one of the schools announced it would be unable to reopen for class in the next academic year.

The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., announced on Wednesday that it had agreed to accept students from the recently-shuttered Holy Family College, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and was working to allow students to complete their studies – including online, if necessary. 

On May 4, the Wisconsin school announced it would be suspending operations at the end of August, 2020. The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, who administer the school, decided to close the college due to a combination of declining enrollment and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This announcement left Holy Family’s roughly 450 students scrambling for a way to continue their academic careers. 

“Under the new partnership, all eligible Holy Family College student credits will be accepted toward an equal or comparable degree program at Catholic University,” said a press release from The Catholic University of America on Wednesday.  

“Catholic U. will develop a pathway to graduation, offering the student the opportunity to complete his or her program over the same timeframe as was possible at Holy Family College,” said the school.  

While other universities nearby in Wisconsin also offered to open their doors to the former students of Holy Family College, none were Catholic. Catholic University of America president John Garvey said he hopes that his school can provide an option for students seeking to stay in a Catholic environment.  

Garvey told CNA that the president of Holy Family College contacted him, looking for possible arrangements for their students. 

“Being the national university of the Catholic Church, we were naturally anxious to help,” said Garvey. He described the decision to partner with the school as a “no-brainer, in the sense that being a good Samaritan is always a no-brainer.” 

Garvey described The Catholic University of America as “a kind of a natural home” for the students of the shuttered school, and potentially other schools facing financial crises. 

As the school is a large research university, Garvey said that Catholic University could be a “landing place for most any student, particularly those at other Catholic universities, if they want to find a place to finish their degree.” 

Garvey said they are still working out the details for many Holy Family College students transferring to Catholic U. The university does not offer all of the same programs as Holy Family College, and Washington is far from Wisconsin, where 80% of Holy Family’s students are from. But, Garvey said, the COVID-19 outbreak has actually created new pathways for these students through online learning. 

“Ironically, one of the upsides of dealing with the coronavirus in the springtime is that we have made huge investments in technology and in online education, so the investment that we’ve made will, in the future, enable many students like the kids from Holy Family to finish their degrees without leaving Wisconsin,” he said. 

This increased emphasis on technology has been a “bright side” to everything, he said. 

The Catholic University will be as “flexible” as possible in taking in students, provided they have met a certain GPA requirement that indicates they are likely to succeed in the university’s coursework. 

“We’re doing our best to slot people in, where they can finish out,” said Garvey.

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