Lindenwood Belleville’s current, future students forced to reconsider college plans

File video: Lindenwood University-Belleville news surprises students

Lindenwood University announced on May 13, 2019, that it would be consolidating daytime undergraduate academic programs from its Belleville campus to St. Charles, Missouri, surprising many students and athletes.
Up Next
Lindenwood University announced on May 13, 2019, that it would be consolidating daytime undergraduate academic programs from its Belleville campus to St. Charles, Missouri, surprising many students and athletes.

Phoebe Hagelstein is a 17-year-old Belleville West student who simultaneously completed high school and her associate’s degree at Southwestern Illinois College through the Running Start program.

She had planned to go to Lindenwood University-Belleville to finish her undergraduate degree and complete a master’s degree in criminology before enrolling in a police academy. She wanted to go to LU-B because it is close to home and she could save money on room and board. She also is already familiar with the campus.

Monday’s news that Lindenwood would stop offering daytime classes at its Belleville campus after the 2019-20 school year, however, means Hagelstein and the other remaining undergraduate students will have to reassess their higher education plans.

Before the 2019-20 school year ends 12 months from now, students still enrolled at LU-B will be faced with a decision: Will they make the 38-mile commute to St. Charles, Missouri, or continue their studies at another university?

Lindenwood has invited its Belleville students to complete their degrees at St. Charles or through online courses. They can make the transfer to St. Charles for the upcoming school year at any time.

“We strongly encourage students to make their decision by July 1, 2019, to allow ample time for registration, housing sign-ups, etc... However, enrollment for Fall 2019 will remain open until mid-August,” the school said in a frequently-asked-questions letter issued to Belleville students.

For Hagelstein, she said she is still deciding what to do. LU-B will accept her associate’s degree so she can start off as a junior which gives her an incentive to stay with the university. She says she is going to see if there are enough night classes offered at LU-B to complete her degrees.

Her second choice would be making the 48-minute one-way drive to St. Charles for class.

“If need be, I’ll try to make it work,” Hagelstein said.

Transferring to another school would be a third choice because not all schools would accept her associate’s degree.

How many students will transfer?

How many students make the transfer this year as opposed to waiting another year remains to be seen, said Chris Duggan, director of communications for the university.

“That picture will start to solidify over the next couple of months,” Duggan said.

Students graduating from high school this month and planning on enrolling at Lindenwood-Belleville will have their admissions honored by the St. Charles campus, the university said. Students’ financial aid packages also will stay the same.

Despite the consolidation news, prospective transfer students from Southwestern Illinois College were touring the Belleville campus on Monday.

LU-B student Kyle Hopcraft, has a year and a semester left before graduating. With Monday’s news he said he plans on packing in all of his academic work into one school year so he can graduate with his friends and avoid spending a semester at the St. Charles campus.

“It just won’t be the same,” Hopcraft said. “It will be a completely different environment. It’s going to be a whole new routine. It’s not something I’m looking forward to.”

Hopcraft is confident he can handle the extra workload.

“The last three semesters I’ve had a 4.0 and a 3.75, and I’ve taken five and seven classes,” Hopcraft said. “What’s it going to be to add one more class and get out of here with my friends that I started with?”

Other students on track for graduation in the spring of 2020 say they are disappointed the Belleville campus won’t have daytime classes anymore.

“I wish I could have been an alumni to a school that could have lasted a little bit longer,” said Jacob Gilliam, who is studying accounting and business.

Will SIUE or McKendree reach out to help?

Whether other colleges and universities, such as Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville or McKendree University, reach out to Lindenwood undergrads to possibly transfer also remains to be seen.

“At this stage, SIUE has nothing special to offer,” said Doug McIlhagga, a spokesman for SIUE. “However, discussions are being held about possible outreach strategies.”

Chris Hall, vice president of Admission and Financial Aid at McKendree, said the Lebanon university would be able to accept up to 30 classes, which could make it possible for a student to graduate a year after transferring. The university will accept applications on a rolling basis and enroll students throughout the summer, up to the start of classes in August, he said.

“McKendree will continue to do all that we can to provide a high-quality educational experience for students wanting to continue their education in the metro-east,” Hall said in an email to the BND. “We will work with each student individually to assist with transcript evaluation and course articulation to ensure a smooth transition for the students. We will also help students to access all financial aid available to make the McKendree experience possible.”

Zaney Hanna, who is set to graduate from Belleville West High School, planned to attend Lindenwood-Belleville to major in criminology because the campus is close to home.

“It’s unexpected and a little disappointing,” she said. “I hope to hear from the university so I can decide on my next steps.”

Students on athletic scholarships left in limbo

Carl Wills, of Belleville, has a daughter who had received an athletic scholarship to attend Lindenwood-Belleville. Attending school in St. Charles was never a consideration, Wills said.

Wills said athletics is a way to help pay for his daughter’s education, but at this point in the calendar, he’s concerned athletic scholarship money at other schools may have already have been awarded.

“Obviously it came as a shock,” Wills said. “We thought we had everything solidified … This announcement came out of the blue for us. It caused us to have to stop and re-evaluate what her plans are.”

According to a frequently-asked-questions document issued by the university, Lindenwood will honor all current athletic scholarships, though Belleville athletes will have to tryout for spots on St. Charles rosters. The Belleville campus Lynx compete in NAIA Division I, while the St. Charles campus Lions are NCAA Division II.

Transferring to an NCAA program often costs the student a year of eligibility. The university said, through its FAQ, that will assist student-athletes who choose to transfer in applying for a waiver.

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.