Shock and sadness prevail in wake of Clearwater Christian College's announced closure

Published June 6 2015
Updated June 7 2015

CLEARWATER — Rising college senior Clayton Underwood sat in shock Friday morning as school administrators told him he'd have to finish his education elsewhere.

The Clearwater Christian College student was one of about 10 working a summer job on campus with the maintenance crew. He and his colleagues were called into a meeting where they heard the news: the college was shutting down, effective immediately. There will be no class next year.

Soon after, administrators notified students and staff who were not on campus.

A message posted on the school's website attributed the closure to "declining enrollment, increased debt, and lack of significant endowments or other revenue sources." It said the board of directors could not find any viable alternatives to closing the school's doors.

"After much prayer and with a genuine heaviness of heart, a motion was made and a unanimous vote was made to close the college," the message read.

"It was very abrupt," said Underwood, a 21-year-old business management major and soccer player from Terre Haute, Ind. "I knew we were enrollment-driven, students always talked about budget problems in the past, but year after year we were able to come back to campus."

The announcement was unexpected but not entirely surprising for Bob Carver, Bible and Greek professor at Clearwater Christian. Carver, 72, of Clearwater, whose tenure at the college spanned 38 years, said he had no knowledge of any impending changes, but knew the college struggled to maintain a healthy enrollment.

Spring Hill Pastor Chris Wheeler said he thought "someone or something had died" when he heard his high school senior daughter, who planned to attend Clearwater Christian next year, on the phone when she called to share the sad news.

"It turned out to be both as CCC was more than a place it was a living organism that had a heartbeat for God and the people of Clearwater," Wheeler said by email. His oldest daughter graduated from Clearwater Christian this year and his second-oldest daughter was a rising junior.

"We have three other children who were making plans to attend CCC in the coming years, but those plans dramatically were crushed today and tears were shed," Wheeler said.

The closing puts Carver at a crossroads.

"At my age, retirement is a possibility, but I love teaching," he said. He's already spoken to a friend at Reformation Bible College in Sanford about possibly teaching there.

He said he's most concerned for his younger colleagues, and the students who will have to find other places to finish their degree. Online schools are an option, and several other schools that are pledging to make it easy for Clearwater Christian students to transfer credit are visiting campus on June 18.

Underwood said he he'll soon begin looking for another college to attend, but he's optimistic things will work out.

"I am not worried at all because I know God has something planned for me and everyone from CCC," he said.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 226-3446 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @josh_solomon15.

Advertisement