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Notre Dame College in Ohio to close permanently in 2024

The 102-year-old Catholic college cited declining enrollment and financial woes, compounded by the departure of the Sisters of Notre Dame last year.

(Notre Dame College)

Notre Dame College (NDC), a 102-year-old Catholic institution formerly run by the Sisters of Notre Dame in South Euclid, Ohio, has announced it will cease operations at the end of the current semester, citing declining enrollment and funding challenges.

The school announced the news on Feb. 29 with joint announcements to students and the public, describing unsuccessful attempts to save the school. 

“Throughout this long process, we evaluated every possible option to continue the mission of Notre Dame College,” said Terri Bradford Eason, Chair of the NDC Board of Trustees, in an official statement.

“Our primary focus has been to ensure our students can successfully continue their education, graduate, and—in the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame—live a life of personal, professional and global responsibility.”

Founded as a women’s college in 1920s Cleveland, NDC moved ten miles east to its current location a little over a century ago and has been coeducational since 2001. It is one of the nation’s more diverse Catholic higher education institutions, with a student body that is roughly a third Black and half non-White. Undergraduate enrollment was 1,376 in the fall of 2022, down some 37% since 2014. 

The Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld ended their sponsorship of NDC last summer, explaining that their own declining numbers made it impossible to continue their leadership of the school. It was the order’s only college or university in the United States.

“Over the past 33 years, our sisters have gradually withdrawn from the Board and leadership positions at the College in the face of the increasing complexities of higher education and as fewer sisters with appropriate training and expertise were available to serve at the institution,” they said in a statement at the time.

Dr. J. Michael Pressimone resigned as NDC president in November, after a little more than three years on the job and just months after the college received assurance from the Diocese of Cleveland that it could—at least temporarily—retain its identity as a Catholic institution. 

The school’s provost, Dr. John Smetanka, was named interim president following Pressimone’s departure, and plans for a possible merger were shared publicly on Jan. 27 involving Cleveland State University. Three weeks later, Smetanka highlighted NDC’s financial challenges and said a “strategic planning process” would “lead to a final decision soon,” though the possibility of closure was not explicitly mentioned.

In the Feb. 29 announcement, the interim president provided assurance that students currently enrolled at NDC will receive ongoing support in the coming months.

“We are all saddened by the need to make this decision, but rest assured that as we move forward, we are doing everything we can to ensure a smooth transition for our students to continue their education,” he said.

Officials say they have reached agreements for teach-out programs and transfer opportunities, including with Cleveland State, Baldwin Wallace University, Hiram College, Kent State University, Lake Erie College, and the Catholic schools John Carroll University, Ursuline College; Walsh University, and Mercyhurst University.

NDC is one of several notably diverse Catholic higher ed institutions to announce closure in the past year, including Philadelphia’s Cabrini University and the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, both of which will cease operations this spring. As with the similar shutterings, administrators say NDC’s imprint will endure its community of supporters.

“The Board of Trustees is profoundly grateful to Notre Dame College students for their endurance; to school leadership, faculty and staff for their loyal service and commitment; and to the many friends, donors, and partners who have so generously supported this very special institution, allowing the college to fulfill its mission for over 100 years,” reads a statement from the school. 

“Notre Dame College’s impact and legacy will live on through the contributions of its more than 5,000 alumni and all members of our college community, past and present.”

Correction (3/6/24): previous version of this story stated that the College of Saint Rose is located in Buffalo, New York. It is located in Albany. We regret the error.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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