(Lon Morris College photo/file)
JACKSONVILLE (August 24, 2012)—Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, the oldest junior college in the state, announced Friday it's suspending its fall semester as it seeks a purchaser or new financial partner.
In a statement issued Friday, college officials said the suspension follows a U.S. Department of Education decision to not allow federal aid to the college’s students because the school filed for bankruptcy protection in July.
“The (Department of Education’s) action to cancel all federal financial aid is justified by bureaucrats merely quoting policy, noting they are powerless to use judgment to provide reasonable or practical accommodations,” said Dawn Ragan, the school’s chief restructuring officer.
“We understand we would literally need an act of Congress to ensure this does not continue to happen to other schools in the same predicament,” she said.
The private 158-year-old United Methodist school would have begun classes this fall with only a handful of faculty and students after a failed effort to boost enrollment and revenue by resurrecting the school’s football program.
Students admitted for the fall semester were being notified and the school was working with both Jacksonville College and Tyler Junior College to accommodate them, the statement said.
Lon Morris officials decided in 2009 to resurrect the school’s football program after nearly 70 years in a bid to boost enrollment.
The move more than tripled enrollment to about 1,000 by 2010, but the college found itself burdened not only with the expense of the football program, but also of waves of students who couldn’t pay the bills.
The school filed for bankruptcy, dropped all of its sports programs and furloughed all but about a half dozen faculty members.
Officials estimated only about 100 students remained enrolled.
Despite the circumstances, the college issued a press release on Aug. 11 that expressed optimism for the fall semester and promised “a revitalized academic program” that will put the school on a path to the future.
The college had reduced tuition by 33 per cent in lieu of discounts and unfunded scholarships, and had planned to continue to offer financial aid and funded scholarships for some programs.