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Saint Leo merger with Marymount California University hits delay

The accrediting body for the Southeast did not approve the plan. “A total surprise.”
Students walk in front of Saint Leo Abbey on the campus of Saint Leo University in Pasco County. The school announced that its merger with Marymount California University would be delayed.
Students walk in front of Saint Leo Abbey on the campus of Saint Leo University in Pasco County. The school announced that its merger with Marymount California University would be delayed. [ Times (2007) ]
Published Dec. 8, 2021

In July, Saint Leo University announced it would be merging with Marymount California University. As part of the deal, the Pasco County school planned to expand its reach, taking over Marymount’s Los Angeles County buildings valued at $60 million and its $3.7 million in debt.

But in an email to the university community this week, Saint Leo president Jeffrey Senese said the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges did not accept initial plans for the merger. The association is the accrediting organization for schools in the Southeast.

Senese called the news a “total surprise” for Saint Leo. Still, he said in the message that the school plans to continue working toward the merger even if it takes longer than the initial timeline.

Though the university will receive a full explanation in January of why the decision was made, he said the accrediting body had not expressed concerns over Saint Leo’s financial health.

He wrote that downward enrollment trends “have in fact reversed,” and that the school planned to submit updated information to the accrediting body in March.

“While the university waits to resubmit the plan, we will use this time to redouble our efforts on growing and strengthening our university, while also supporting Marymount California University in its enrollment work,” Senese wrote.

In a statement, spokeswoman Mary McCoy said the university remains optimistic about the plans, calling it a “minor delay in our timeline for moving forward.”

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