MAYFIELD, Ky. (BP) — A Kentucky college with strong Southern Baptist ties will close its doors by June 30, citing a “myriad of circumstances” as the cause of its closure.
Trustees of Mid-Continent University near Paducah, Ky., met for more than three hours April 15 before announcing their decision to close the school, which was organized by western Kentucky pastors in 1949 with the endorsement of the West Kentucky Baptist Association. Mid-Continent moved to Mayfield, its current location, in 1957.
The university is not affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention but has long enjoyed close ties to Kentucky Baptist churches.
“The Board regrets the myriad of circumstances that brought forth this unfortunate situation,” acting president Tom Walden said in a notice to students posted on Mid-Continent’s website. “We are working diligently to develop plans for the continuation of your educational programs with as little [disturbance] in your programs as possible. Please complete all courses in which you are enrolled.
“We want to offer you multiple options with the goal of continuing quality Christ-centered educational programs for current Mid-Continent students through other accredited educational institutions. We are developing a plan to provide you with available help after closing,” Walden said.
Trustees met for six hours on April 12 and fired former president Robert Imhoff, who resigned from the presidency in February but continued to draw a salary. Trustee chairman Tom Butler declined to reveal publicly the reason for the firing, Kentucky Baptists’ Western Recorder newsjournal reported. The board also dismissed Imhoff’s wife Jackie, who served as vice president of adult services.
Questions had been raised about nine of Imhoff’s relatives who were working at Mid-Continent and drawing about $1 million in salaries annually, the Western Recorder said.
In December, Mid-Continent received a second consecutive year of accreditation warning from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), its regional accrediting body. Among Mid-Continent’s deficiencies was failure to comply with SACSCOC institutional effectiveness standards and failure to demonstrate financial stability, according to the SACSCOC website.
Mid-Continent also failed to comply with SACSCOC standards regarding its participation in federal student aid programs, the SACSCOC website said. As a result of irregularities in its handling of federal student aid, the U.S. Department of Education placed the school on “heightened cash monitoring” status (HCM2), the Department of Education said.
Generally the Department of Education pays federal aid to schools before they account for each student to receive aid. But schools on HCM2 status must give a complete report on each student before the government distributes funds.
The Western Recorder reported in February that Mid-Continent was filing paperwork in hopes that the Department of Education would release $9 million dollars in funding. While it waited for federal funds, Mid-Continent used between $7 million and $9 million of its reserve funds — a major expense relative to the university’s $22 million budget.
“The money is nearly gone,” Butler said in February. He also expressed concern about Mid-Continent’s financial future, the Western Recorder reported.
“I am personally saddened by the announced closing of MCU,” Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said. “The institution unapologetically embraced a biblical worldview and has served as a training ground for Southern Baptist pastors and leaders in western Kentucky and far beyond. We need more, not less, institutions like that.”
Trustees terminated nearly all faculty and staff, but some continued to work on a volunteer basis to help current seniors graduate. Classes with at least one senior were scheduled to continue until graduation. Other classes were handled on a case by case basis.
Area Baptist associations are donating food for student meals and sponsoring the graduation ceremony.
Several Baptist colleges in Kentucky offered to waive application fees for Mid-Continent students seeking to transfer. Among them were Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and three KBC-affiliated schools: Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville; Campbellsville University in Campbellsville; and the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg.
Offers to help Mid-Continent students came from area secular schools as well, including Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green and Murray State University in Murray.
Southern Baptists lamented the closing.
“We have faculty and students who are members at our church and it hurts all of us to see their pain,” Dan Summerlin, pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah and a member of the SBC Executive Committee, told the Western Recorder. “The closing not only will affect our local economy but also will have an impact for the Kingdom of God, because many men and women going into the ministry attended there. Also, the evangelistic thrust to all the students and their families to hear the Gospel is lost.”
Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).