Aquinas College to downsize, shift focus to education

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Siena Hall at Aquinas College. Courtesy of Aquinas College.

Aquinas College in Nashville announced last week that it will be restructuring to focus primarily on education degrees, and will drop its other majors, as well as residential life.

“The decision to reconfigure Aquinas College was made only after a process of careful discernment, as we considered the College’s long and persistent history of difficulties in finances, fluctuating enrollment, and development, as well as other complexities related to operating a traditional college in today’s world,” stated Sister Mary Sarah Galbraith, president of Aquinas College.

“We have sought to reach the most financially responsible decision possible, both for the short and long term,” she said in a March 10 press release.

Aquinas College was founded in 1961 by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. It was originally a two-year, liberal arts college but later, it converted into a four-year school. Over the years, the college has offered a variety of academic majors, including arts, sciences, business, and nursing, as well as a graduate school of education.

Last fall, the college added new residence and dining halls to its campus, with hopes of growing its student population, and also offered new majors in marketing, math, and psychology. At the time, they had 344 enrolled students.

“Over the years, Aquinas has educated thousands of teachers, nurses, and health care professionals, as well as those engaged in business and law enforcement. These individuals now serve the Nashville community and beyond,” noted Sister Galbraith.

“We love Aquinas College, and are proud of the accomplishments of its graduates.”

Starting in the fall of 2017, Aquinas College will reconfigure its current system to focus primarily on offering bachelor and master degrees in education. The school will cut most of their other majors, and will only continue forward with philosophy and theology course offerings, as well as the School of Education.

Residential life will also discontinue, and student life activities will no longer be offered.

Sister Galbraith expressed that this decision was the most fiscally responsible path for the school to take, and noted that this move will have no impact on other schools involved with the Dominican Sisters.

However, the shift will also mean the drastic downsizing of faculty, students and staff.

Since the shift, Sister Galbraith said that the school is helping more than half of Aquinas students find other suitable colleges. The school is additionally laying off 60 of its 76 employees, while also trying to help them find other employment.

The Dominican Sisters, filled with a rich history and passion for education, believe that the new spotlight on education at Aquinas College will prepare future “teachers to serve the Church in its mission of education.”
 
“This decision to focus Aquinas College on the preparation of teachers primarily for Catholic schools is consistent with the 157-year heritage of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia,” Sister Galbraith stated.

Although the school’s president noted that the decision would surprise many people close to Aquinas College, she did express gratitude and hope for the school’s future.

“We look forward to its future, grateful to the City of Nashville and the wider Catholic community whose friendship and loyal support continue to be a source of strength for its life and mission,” Sister Galbraith noted.

“We are grateful for your prayers and support as we do everything in our power to assist and walk with those whose lives are affected by this decision.”

 
 

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