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Int’l students face Iowa Wesleyan University closure

After operating for 181 years, Iowa Wesleyan University on March 28 announced its imminent closure due to financial challenges.

IW said it will focus on helping over 850 students to have a "smooth transition to another educational opportunity" after announcing its closure. Photo: IW

International students facing university closure is not an unusual phenomenon

The private institution states on its website that it serves over 100 international students from over 30 countries, promoting its campus as “one of the most diverse in the region”.

In its closure announcement, IW said it secured four “teach-out agreements” with William Penn University, Upper Iowa University, University of Dubuque and Culver-Stockton College. This allows students to complete their academic programs within a comparable time frame and cost to IW.

Since then, additional teach-out agreements have been added, and more are pending approval by the Higher Learning Commission’s Institutional Actions Council.

Millikin University, a private institution in Decatur, IL, announced last week that it would aid IW students, through a tuition match for both undergraduate and graduate students who previously attended IW and “choose to transfer to Millikin”.

In addition to creating a transfer funnel with no additional “out-of-pocket costs”, transferring students can access housing at Millikin University as well as monetary support through “transfer grants and/or scholarship”.

While international students have not been addressed specifically within Millikin’s transfer plans, the Office of Admission guarantees to work with these students “one-on-one” to ensure future success.

International students at IW can refer to the International Student FAQs on IW’s website to receive more specific guidance, a spokesperson told The PIE. Regarding status, IW maintains that international students’ status will not be affected “regardless of the university’s closing”.

However, there are requirements to remain “legal” and “in-status”. These include attending class, corresponding with designated school officials and keeping copies of the I-20 form. 

Paolo Ancona, a graduate assistant for the Center for International Education at IW, told The PIE News that the circumstances surrounding IW’s closure are heartbreaking, not only for the school closing itself but for the “small town and community” that is represented through IW.

“Many international students found comfort and happiness when they first came to Mount Pleasant,” he said. “The Tiger Family will always be in our hearts.”

“The Tiger Family will always be in our hearts”

International students facing university closure is not an unusual phenomenon. This February, ASA College lost its accreditation which prompted its closure. With no transfer arrangements with other institutions, international students were impacted by the lack of contingency plan.

After learning that ASA was closing, international student Edwin Rodriguez, originally from Colombia, contacted the college to receive transcripts and request a tuition refund.

However, the institution responded by requesting him to pay the remaining balance to access his transcripts.

After ASA’s announcement of accreditation, over 100 students, many of whom are international, contacted the New York Legal Assistance Group. They required help “getting ASA to sign their withdrawal paperwork”, according to Jessica Ranucci, the coordinating attorney of the Special Litigation Unit.

Iowa Wesleyan University likewise addresses the importance of paying “all remaining balances due to the university” to obtain transcripts. Transcripts can be requested after the school closure, as the University of Iowa will become the repository for these IW documents.

Christine Plunkett, president of Iowa Wesleyan University, said that the focus “is now on assuring our over 850 students have a smooth transition to another educational opportunity”.

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