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Mid-Continent to close June 30

BY KATHLEEN FOXkfox@paducahsun.com

MAYFIELD - The financial crisis at Mid-Continent University has reached the breaking point with all faculty and staff laid off and the school scheduled to close by June 30. 

The Mid-Continent University Board of Trustees met for more than three hours Tuesday night before announcing those decisions. The board also held a six-hour meeting on Saturday.

Acting President Robert "Tom" Walden, who was appointed Saturday to replace Ken Winters, said every staff member from the president on down has been laid off because of lack of finances. Employee benefits will cease immediately.

"Every employee had been laid off but the school will be open tomorrow (Wednesday) by volunteers," he said Tuesday night.

He said the school will remain open thanks to faculty and staff members who have volunteered their time so current seniors can graduate. All Advantage classes with at least one student due to graduate will continue. Others courses could end immediately and would be handled on a one-on-one basis, he said.

"We have to be optimistic but also realistic," Walden said. "We didn't know until today what we had to do. But the real heroes are the teachers who have stepped up to the plate out of concern for the students."

The final day of classes for the cycle is set for May 2 and graduation for May 10. The school will cease classes for all students on June 30.

Walden said the school will have clerical volunteers to help retrieve student transcripts. He also said school officials are in preliminary discussions with other colleges to coordinate transfer opportunities.

The Kentucky Baptist Churches Association will donate food for students and will sponsor the graduation ceremony.

Mid-Continent Chief of Staff Bill Bartleman said school leaders discussed several scenarios regarding the school's future prior to the meeting on Tuesday.

Last week the school announced layoffs of about 40 employees, primarily in the recruitment department and off-campus satellite campuses. Trustees said Saturday that additional layoffs were a possibility.

Trustee Gale Hawkins said the board didn't discuss any plans to close the school during the Saturday meeting but did talk about possible staff reductions and cash management with the short-term goal of meeting May graduation.

The school sold about 20 vehicles and land across from the main campus on U.S. 45 last week. Nineteen acres on Pecan Drive in Paducah remain for sale.

Walden said funding from the sale of the Paducah property, increased private donations and a dozen other avenues could allow the school to remain open after the June deadline.

Walden said the situation with the fifth round of Department of Education paperwork affecting student grants and loans has changed now that the university will cease operations at the end of June. He said school officials will have to find out a different process that will apply given its new situation.

A team of representatives from the Department of Education's regional office in Kansas City, Mo., arrived on campus Monday. The school had been working on a new submission of paperwork involving about 400 current students.

The next trustee meeting is set for May 17, but one could be called sooner, Walden said.

Contact Kathleen Fox a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651, or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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