Holy Family College to discontinue operations at end of summer

Operating costs, unstable enrollment and COVID-19 drove decision, say sisters

MANITOWOC – Holy Family College, operated by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries, will cease operations at the end of the summer term and discontinue all operations by Aug. 29. Sr. Natalie Binversie, community director of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc, announced the closure in a press release May 4.

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity offer a blessing during the “Unveiling a New Chapter” event at Holy Family College in Manitowoc Sept. 19, 2019. FSCC Sponsored Ministries announced the college will cease operations this summer. (Suzanne Weiss | For The Compass)

Sr. Natalie said the community “made the difficult decision to approve cessation of the college’s operations after careful consideration of current enrollment and fundraising challenges, as well as a detailed analysis of the college’s fiscal position.” She added that the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic “only made a tough situation untenable.”

“Everyone at the college has been working hard to achieve enrollment growth and increased fundraising, especially College President Dr. Robert Callahan. Under his leadership, good progress was made in addressing several years of earlier negative fiscal performance, and overall, he did a great job,” she continued. “However, the tough challenges were made even tougher with the COVID-19 outbreak, and we collectively made this difficult decision.”

According to Sr. Natalie, many smaller colleges in the Midwest and throughout the country have faced similar fiscal pressures and closed.

“Consistent with our Franciscan Catholic values, we will work with the college community and the community at large to implement closing procedures in the most compassionate, just and thoughtful way possible,” Sr. Natalie said. “Our priority is how we can best assist all members of our college family in this transition, especially transitioning our students and trying to help our faculty and staff secure new jobs. They will be our priority going forward.”

The college’s current class of 2020 will be the final graduating class. Sr. Natalie said the school will work with underclassmen “to assist them in transferring to other schools so they may pursue and complete their college education.” The college will also work to provide students with access to academic counselors and other professionals to assist them with transfer options and financial aid questions. Potential new students will be contacted in order to make different plans.

“We realize that this announcement is happening late in the spring, so we will work as hard as we can with all the students to help them transition to a new school and make different plans,” added Sr. Natalie.

According to Sr. Natalie, Holy Family College will begin the cessation process in June and provide a limited number of summer term classes, allowing a number of students to complete their degree requirements. The college’s goal is to assist transitioning students in enrolling at another college while accepting all of their credits.

The college will start to reduce its workforce on June 13, said Sr. Natalie, and further reduce it on June 30. Any remaining positions will be eliminated by Aug. 29. Full-time faculty positions will conclude on Aug. 13, she added, except for those who will teach the summer term.

“The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity have responded to our calling to the service of others in Manitowoc for 150 years. While we are saddened by the need to end our mission at Holy Family College, we will maintain our presence in the community through our health care and service ministries,” said Sr. Natalie.

Holy Family College was founded in 1885 by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. Named Holy Family Academy and Normal School, it was located at the convent and prepared women entering the religious community for the vocation of teaching.

As the sisters expanded their educational goals, they added a wing to the convent and Holy Family College was born. The college, which began admitting laywomen in 1957 and became coeducational the following decade, was relocated to its present building adjacent to the convent in 1960.

The Franciscan community separately incorporated the college in 1972 and renamed it Silver Lake College of the Holy Family, after nearby Silver Lake. For many years, it was called Silver Lake College.

Holy Family College has served traditional undergraduates, transfer students, working professionals and graduate students. It has offers 21 undergraduate majors and three graduate programs.