MacMurray College
MacMurray College

MacMurray College is closing after 174 years

April 7, 2020
Officials have concluded that the four-year liberal arts college in Jacksonville, Ill., is no longer viable.

After years of financial struggles, MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., will shut down for good at the end of the spring semester.

The Springfield State Journal-Register reports that leaders of the four-year liberal arts college decided there was no viable financial path forward in light of declining enrollments, rising competitive costs, and an insufficient endowment.

“The board spent more than a year exploring potential new sources for capital, but we were unable to solve the serious financial difficulties facing us,” says Charles O’Connell, chairman of MacMurray’s board of trustees. “We deeply regret the decision and are sorry for the disruption and disappointment it will have for everyone in the Mac family.”

The college was founded in 1846 by Methodist clergy as the Illinois Conference Female Academy. It is one of the oldest colleges originally for women in the United States and one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in Illinois.

The name was changed in 1899 to Illinois Woman’s College. In 1913, the college was granted accreditation. The name was changed again in 1930 to MacMurray College for Women.

Foreseeing the coming baby boom, the college’s board of trustees established MacMurray College for Men in 1955. The men’s and women’s colleges merged in 1969.

Despite its long history, the college struggled in recent years.

In 2016, it was placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission “because of concerns related to governance, assessment of student learning, institutional resources, planning, and performance improvement.”

The probation, which could have meant loss of accreditation and eligibility for federal financial aid and other programs, was lifted in July 2018.

Faculty and staff had been working to create a new and sustainable business model for the college that would have broadened its professional degree programs and reached out to more non-traditional students.

Trustees embarked on an ambitious fundraising campaign in late 2019 to keep doors open.

“MacMurray’s 174-year-old heritage includes many times where we faced reality and then did what we needed to do,” says college president Beverly Rogers. “Our task now is to close MacMurray with compassion for its family and care for its legacy.”

The college currently has 527 full-time students and 101 faculty and staff. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students already have moved off campus and are taking classes online.

Students not eligible for graduation in May will be referred to a partner institution to complete their degree. The college has negotiated transfer agreements for its students at Blackburn College, Eureka College, Greenville University, Illinois College, McKendree University, Millikin University and Monmouth College.

O’Connell says the pandemic and subsequent economic disruption were factors that complicated the college’s recent financial position, but were not the main reasons for the closure.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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