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Dive Brief:

  • Johnson University, a private Christian institution, will shutter its Florida campus at the end of next June amid ongoing enrollment and financial challenges.
  • The university’s trustees voted last week to close the campus, following years of increasing operating deficits. Classes will continue through the 2023-24 academic year, and faculty contracts will be honored during that time.
  • Students are being encouraged to transfer to Johnson’s original campus, in Tennessee. The Florida campus will stop accepting new students in September.

Dive Insight:

In 2013, Johnson acquired Florida Christian College after the latter lost its accreditation. The move was intended to diversify Johnson’s student body and expand to a state with a large Christian population, according to the university.

However, enrollment challenges meant the university increasingly lost money on its new location, the university said in a statement

“Anyone following higher education, especially private Christian higher education, knows this is a difficult time. There are fewer students considering college, and many of those who do are enrolling at community colleges or public colleges and universities,” it said.

Just 149 students attended the campus in fall 2021, according to federal data. In comparison, Johnson’s Tennessee location enrolled 942 during the same period.

The university assured students that its original campus, in Knoxville, Tenn., is not in danger of closing. 

“While we are financially stable, we are also being very careful to ‘live below our means’ and limit our spending,” it said.

Johnson’s trustees had approved a plan in early 2021 that was meant to revitalize the Kissimmee, Florida, campus by cutting its budget deficit, upping enrollment, improving retention and increasing donor giving.

“Despite strong efforts from the Johnson University Florida faculty and staff, we have been unsuccessful in increasing enrollment significantly and the campus has not made sufficient progress toward its benchmarks,” the university said.

Some employees will receive an offer to work at Johnson’s Tennessee campus. Those that don’t will get severance based on the length of their employment. 

Students who choose to stay enrolled and plan to transfer to Johnson’s Tennessee campus afterward will have their tuition covered through a last-dollar program covering costs after any grants and scholarships, the university said. Half of tuition costs will be covered for those who stay for the upcoming year and then complete their degree with Johnson online.

The university is also exploring further scholarship options for Florida students once they’ve enrolled at the Tennessee campus. 

The sticker price for both locations is comparable. In the 2022-23 year, tuition and fees at Johnson’s Florida campus came to just over $18,600. In Tennessee, that number was just under $19,300.

For students looking to stay in Florida, Johnson has established transfer agreements with five Christian institutions in the state, including Palm Beach Atlantic University and Warner University.