GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After 126 years, Finlandia University will shutter its doors. The university’s Board of Trustees announced it will not enroll new or current students for the 2023-2024 academic year.
“I am deeply saddened to announce that due to a combination of demographic changes, with fewer high school graduates available, a steep decrease in interest in going to college among those graduates, and an unbearable debt load, Finlandia’s Board of Trustees met and have decided to not enroll students for the 2023-2024 school year,” the Board wrote in a statement.
Finlandia University was founded in 1896 as Suomi College by Finnish Lutheran immigrants as a way to further the education and job prospects for future generations and preserve their Finnish culture in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
It is one of 26 colleges and universities in the United States affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and is the only private college in the U.P.
In a letter to the university’s students, faculty and staff, President Timothy Pinnow said officials spent months working to find a solution to avoid a shutdown.
“I do want to assure you that the leadership team, the Board of Trustees and myself have left no stone unturned in an attempt to avoid this day,” Pinnow wrote. “Our efforts have been made noble and unceasing, and while none of us wanted this day to come, we have also realized that in order to honor Finlandia’s 126-year-old legacy appropriately, we must end its operations with grace and dignity.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Finlandia had 424 undergraduate students enrolled in the fall of 2021. Enrollment has trended down in recent years, but it’s not at its lowest levels. According to diversity data posted by Finlandia, the university had 482 undergrad students in the fall of 2014 and 536 in the fall of 2015, but only 402 in the fall of 2017.
Pinnow says the university has turned its attention to helping its students wrap up their studies and make a smooth transition to another college or university to complete their educations.
Finlandia has finalized four “Teach-Out Agreements” with schools across Michigan — Michigan Technological University, Bay College, Adrian College and Wartburg College — to transfer those earned credits. Finlandia is still working on an agreement with Northern Michigan University.
“The Board feels enormous gratitude for all the employees — faculty and staff — who have worked tirelessly to make Finlandia the best it could be, even under the most challenging of financial circumstances. Your contributions will live on,” the Board stated. “And most importantly, we thank all the students, past and present, who chose Finlandia for their educational pursuits.”