Union Institute & University’s accreditor flags financial issues

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Dive Brief:

  • Union Institute & University’s accreditor recently labeled it a financially distressed institution, which came as the college twice delayed the start of this year’s fall term over funding problems and fell under additional federal government oversight. 
  • The Higher Learning Commission said in a public statement last week that while Union Institute remains accredited, HLC has serious concerns about the Ohio institution’s ability to support its operations and meet the accreditor’s core standards.
  • HLC said it will evaluate the private university’s compliance with its policies in October and then decide whether to take further action. A Union Institute spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Dive Insight:

Union Institute leaders have insisted the university won’t shut its doors, despite myriad financial problems that are usually the hallmarks preceding a college closure.

Its enrollment has dropped from 1,666 students in fall 2012 to 787 in fall 2022, according to federal data. The resulting decline in tuition revenue contributed to a multi-year budget deficit, tax documents show.

The private nonprofit college has also missed its payroll a few times since at least March, news reports have documented. This led to an employee in April suing the university over the lost wages in a class-action lawsuit. 

That’s on top of another lawsuit filed last month that accuses the Union Institute of owing nearly $450,000 in rent and defaulting on the lease at its headquarters.

All of the financial turmoil led the university to twice postpone its fall term — originally scheduled for Aug. 28 — until mid-September, and then again until November. 

The U.S. Department of Education last month beefed up oversight of the university, sanctioning it with what’s known as heightened cash monitoring 2. This means the Education Department won’t give the institution financial aid in advance — the university must pay that itself and then seek department reimbursement.


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