Lindenwood consolidation comes as Belleville campus loses almost $3 million annually

Lindenwood University announced Monday that it will end daytime undergraduate academic programs at its Belleville campus following the 2019-2020 academic year.

All Lindenwood-Belleville students will be able to complete their degrees at the St. Charles, Mo., campus with all scholarship packages fully intact, including athletic scholarships. The future is unclear for more than 350 faculty and staff members at the Belleville campus, who could be moved to St. Charles or offered a severance package depending on their status with the college.

“This decision comes after careful consideration by our board of trustees to serve the long-term interests of our students, faculty and staff,” Dr. J. Michael Conoyer, chairman of the Lindenwood University Board of Trustees, said in a new release. “We believe this plan will best position our students and Lindenwood for the future, and we will work with our students and staff to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.”

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said the city received no advance notice of the board’s decision. He said he learned of the consolidation during a 45-minute meeting Monday morning with Art Johnson, interim president of the Lindenwood University system, and Conoyer.

Students and staff already were notified before the university made the announcement.

“They just left my office,” Eckert said Monday. “Sadly enough, a lot of other people knew it before they were honest with the city about their intentions. It was very disappointing. It’s a sad day.”

According to a news release, the school will continue to offer evening programs in Belleville. Consolidation of the two campuses will be completed in May 2020. The Belleville and St. Charles campuses are 38 miles apart.

Lindenwood Communications Director Chris Duggan said the Belleville campus “historically underperformed” despite efforts to turn around enrollment numbers. The campus has lost $2.5 million to $3 million annually for the Lindenwood system, Duggan said, adding that an estimated $16.4 million worth of maintenance has been deferred.

Duggan said an additional $10 million in capital improvements would be necessary to attract new students.

About 78 percent of the students on the Belleville campus participate on at least one of the 34 athletic teams and compete either on scholarship or discounted tuition. The impact also was a factor in the board’s decision, Duggan said.

“Plans had been sought for how to deal with the revenue shortfall on the campus,” he said. “The board vote on Friday was based on the final recommendation after consideration of several courses of action.”

The announcement to close the day classes came just three months after the university’s board of trustees fired Michael Shonrock, who was president of the St. Charles-based Lindenwood University system since 2015, and less than four months after Brett Barger, the former president of Lindenwood University-Belleville, left the college after being placed on administrative leave last fall.

Barger on Monday declined to comment on Lindenwood’s announcement.

Since 2013, Lindenwood has spent more than $25 million on renovations for the Belleville campus. The city of Belleville committed $3 million through tax increment financing, or TIF, in 20 annual payments from TIF District 3. That TIF district expires in 2021.

The city sold the former Belleville Township High School West campus to Lindenwood for $1 in 2003.

Subsequent improvement projects included:

  • A new dorm for women and a new dorm for men that collectively cost $8 million

  • The $2 million purchase of the former Travel Lodge motel on West Main Street for student housing

  • Fifty homes and apartment buildings purchased around the campus that are used as student housing

  • Renovations to the campus football stadium that cost $2 million

  • A communications center that included radio and television studios that cost $1.2 million

  • Work on the student center and dining area that cost $1 million

  • Several hundred thousand dollars spent on landscaping the campus

In the past year, tuition and fees were raised at the college, according to Lindenlink, the St. Charles campus student-run newspaper. Full-time undergraduate tuition increased to $9,000 a semester and part-time tuition by $15 per credit hour.

The university created a website to keep students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community updated.

Housing, financial aid and degrees

The Belleville campus has more than 250 full- and part-time faculty and 100 staff employees for a total of 350.

According to a university-issued FAQ, all offers of admission for undergraduate studies will be honored at Lindenwood’s home campus in St. Charles. Financial packages also will be unaffected if a student stays enrolled with the college as a daytime undergraduate student.

The college is encouraging students to make their decisions about transferring to the St. Charles campus by July 1 to allow time for registration and housing assignments. According to the university, there is enough housing at the St. Charles campus to accommodate all Belleville students wishing to move.

Some classes, including Accelerated Degree Program courses, will continue to be offered at the Belleville campus. However, the classes also are available in St. Charles, at other St. Louis area centers and online. For normal degrees, though, degrees may or may not be completable online.

In addition, no academic programs will be discontinued until the consolidation is complete in 2020.

The Belleville campus offers more than 20 undergraduate and graduate programs and has roughly 1,254 undergraduate students and 165 graduate students.

Faculty and staff

According to the university, Belleville staff will remain employed through May 31, 2020. Faculty on nine-month contracts will work through May 22, 2020, and faculty on 12-month contracts will continue to work through Aug. 21, 2020.

The university said it will offer assistance to employees who either made the transition to St. Charles or lose their jobs.

It isn’t clear which employees will continue working with the college past the 2020 consolidation date. Severance package will be given to employees at the Belleville campus through the consolidation and do not obtain new jobs in St. Charles.

Student employees and temporary employees will not work with the college after the consolidation date, the release stated.

Related stories from Belleville News-Democrat