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Saint Leo University and Marymount California call off merger plan

The schools “part ways amicably” after problems arise with accreditation.
Students walk in front of Saint Leo Abbey at Saint Leo University in Pasco County. The school called off plans to merge with Marymount California last week.
Students walk in front of Saint Leo Abbey at Saint Leo University in Pasco County. The school called off plans to merge with Marymount California last week. [ Times (2007) ]
Published Apr. 20

Saint Leo University’s plans to merge with Marymount California University and extend its brand have been scrapped because of complications with accreditation.

Saint Leo, a Catholic university based in Pasco County with 16 campuses across five states, announced in July it would take over the Los Angeles County school’s buildings and property, valued at $60 million. It also planned to take on Marymount’s debt, expected to be around $3.7 million.

The plan was subject to approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the accrediting body for 11 Southern states and Latin America.

But in December, the school learned that the accrediting agency did not accept initial plans for the merger.

The accreditation body’s report at the time stated the move was denied “because the institution did not provide an acceptable plan and supporting documentation to ensure that it has the capacity” for financial responsibility, a principle for accreditation.

At the onset of the pandemic, Saint Leo closed 17 of its more than 30 campuses due to dwindling enrollment and financial concerns. But president Jeffery Senese has said he expected the school to recover quickly after enrolling its largest class last fall.

The university had previously planned to resubmit its plans and called the accrediting agency’s denial a “minor delay.” But, as first reported by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the boards of trustees at both schools decided last week not to merge after all.

“The parties did not receive regulatory approval as anticipated in December 2021 and, faced with an extended timeline for consummation of the transaction, ultimately decided it was in the best interests of both universities to part ways amicably,” Saint Leo said in a statement Wednesday.

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