ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Michigan News Source) — Concordia University Ann Arbor’s recent announcement to downsize its academic offerings and eliminate all athletic programs has left the university community grappling with an uncertain future. Driven by a decade-long financial struggle and a projected $9-million budget shortfall across the Ann Arbor and Wisconsin campuses, this decision aims to ensure the institution’s survival.

The university, affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, will discontinue most of its 53 on-campus programs and all 28 athletic teams after the 2024-25 academic year. Starting in the 2025-26 school year, only nine on-campus programs, primarily in the medical field, and seven online programs will remain.

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Specifically, the remaining undergraduate programs will be diagnostic medical sonography, nursing, radiology technology, and rehabilitation science (including focuses on physical therapy and occupational therapy). The campus-based graduate programs will include occupational therapy, physical therapy, and physician assistant degrees.

The university has promised that current students will have pathways to degree completion through local partnerships or by transferring to Concordia University Wisconsin, located about 350 miles away in Mequon. However, many students are concerned about the feasibility and impact of these options on their academic and personal lives.

David Smalls, a rising senior and the student body president, voiced his frustration over the administration’s handling of the situation. “It’s unfortunate that leadership has been telling us to wait it out, only for it to come to this radical downsizing of the campus,” he said to MLive. “They say they’re committed to the long-term success of the Ann Arbor campus, but their actions are demonstrating the exact opposite.”

The downsizing decision follows a February letter to students explaining the need to reduce costs for sustainable operation. According to The Detroit News, a task force concluded that despite efforts to increase enrollment and a $35.7 million contribution from Concordia University Wisconsin over the past decade, the Ann Arbor campus had consistently operated at a deficit.

University officials, including Concordia University Wisconsin President Erik Ankerberg, emphasized the difficult but necessary nature of the decision. 

This has been a painful process for our entire Concordia family,” Ankerberg said in a statement.“While this isn’t the outcome many people have hoped for, I rejoice that our Lutheran mission will continue in Ann Arbor.”

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The Detroit News found that this transition makes Concordia University Ann Arbor the third religious-affiliated college in Michigan to face financial crises recently, following the closures of Finlandia University and Marygrove College. Public universities in Michigan, such as the University of Michigan-Flint and Central Michigan University, are also dealing with similar challenges.

To support its 1,200 students, Concordia is working to establish local partnerships and provide personalized academic advising. Meanwhile, alumni have mobilized on social media, exploring ways to save the 61-year-old institution, as reported by The Detroit News.

The broader Concordia community is urged to remain hopeful and resilient. The Rev. David A. Davis, district president of the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, encouraged students in an open letter to “press on through the power of God” despite the challenges.