Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa

Iowa Wesleyan University may have to shut down

Nov. 6, 2018
The Mount Pleasant, Iowa, school, which has operated for more than 175 years, is beset by significant financial trouble.

Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant may have to close because of significant financial problems, maybe before the academic year ends in May.

The Des Moines Register reports that the university's Board of Trustees will meet later this month to consider the institution's future.

Former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack — a member of the school's board of trustees — says it's uncertain whether the school can continue operating through the academic year.

"We hope that we can at least graduate our last class in May, but we just don't know that yet," says Vilsack. "We're doing everything we can to get to May."

University President Steven Titus discussed the university's financial difficulties in a message posted on the university's website.

"At this moment, the university does not have the required financial underpinnings to bridge the gap between strong enrollment and new programming, and the money needed to keep the institution open," Titus wrote.

Although the university has doubled its enrollment and increased student retention during the past five years, it "does not have a healthy endowment or extensive donor network," Titus wrote.

Vilsack — whose husband, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, helped raise $1 million for the school earlier this year — says the school recently asked alumni to help raise about $15 million. Much of that has not been forthcoming. 

The university's tax forms show that in 2015 it spent $3.32 million more than it took in. It operated at a loss of $4.57 million in 2014 and $2.45 million in 2013.

The university is pursuing additional funding sources and partnerships, including through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, regional businesses, community leaders and other higher education partners, Titus said in his online message.

The university began in 1842 as the Mount Pleasant Literary Institute. It sits on 60 acres, has an undergraduate enrollment is 573 and charges $30,500 a year in tuition and fees.

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