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  1. Education

Clearwater Christian College to shut down after unanimous vote

Published Jun. 6, 2015

CLEARWATER — Clearwater Christian College announced Friday that the school is closing due to financial trouble.

A statement posted on the college's website attributed the abrupt closure to "declining enrollment, increased debt and lack of significant endowments."

"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 statement from the board of directors said.

The school calendar shows events scheduled for coming semesters, including next year's commencement ceremony, but the college now says it cannot complete another school year. No one from Clearwater Christian could be reached late Friday.

The college opened in 1966 after acquiring nearly 50 waterfront acres at the eastern entrance to Clearwater.

Documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service tell the story of a college struggling to balance its books.

In 2011, the college's expenses exceeded revenue by about $935,000. The following year, that figure dropped to about $141,000. In 2013, the most recent records available, the college had a better year, finishing with net revenues of nearly $543,000.

In 2013, the school had debt totaling $10.2 million, including $9 million in tax-exempt bonds. It finished the year with net assets worth roughly $4.3 million.

It's not clear what will happen to current students, including those enrolled in summer classes.

Some students turned to social media to express disappointment and ask for prayer.

"I can't believe CCC is closing. It doesn't even seem real," alumnus Cameron MacDonald said on Twitter.

"I think the thing I'll miss the most is not getting to play with my teammates again," wrote Taylor Endicott, a member of the school's women's soccer team.

The college offers about 28 undergraduate and graduate programs and has graduated more than 3,000 students in its history, records show. It had an enrollment of about 500 students in the 2014-2015 school year, according to U.S. News and World Report.

On Friday, a Christian college in Massachusetts was recruiting now-former Clearwater Christian students via Facebook.

Kim Melton, recruitment director at Boston Baptist College, said the Christian college community is a small one.

"When a school closes down, it doesn't take long for the news to travel," she said. "It's big news when one of our schools closes down."

Times staff writer Tony Marrero and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Ayana Stewart at astewart@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913.

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