A century-old university in suburban St. Louis will shut down next year, its president said Monday, citing declining enrollment and ongoing budget problems.

Fontbonne University, in Clayton, was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1923, first as a place to educate young Catholic women. Enrollment for the fall semester was 874 students, including 650 undergraduates. A decade ago, Fontbonne's enrollment was about 2,000 students, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

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University President Nancy Blattner said in a statement that Fontbonne will not accept freshmen for the fall 2024 semester, but will continue with classes through summer 2025. University leaders will work with faculty and staff to help them find new positions elsewhere, she said.

“After many years of declining enrollments and a shrinking endowment, the financial position of the university is no longer able to be sustained for the long term,” Blattner said.

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Many universities are facing similar struggles. Public and private colleges and universities across the country have announced mass layoffs in recent months, as well as program eliminations and campus closures. Budget shortfalls are blamed on declining enrollment, the end of federal pandemic funding and other factors.

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Google Earth

In December, the University of Arizona unveiled a financial recovery plan to address its $240 million budget shortfall. Earlier last year, four of the 14 universities in the Big Ten Conference — Penn State, Nebraska, Minnesota and Rutgers — announced significant budget shortfalls. Bradley University, a private school in Illinois, faced a $13 million budget shortfall representing 10% of its total operating budget.

Blattner said Fontbonne leaders have worked for years to try and turn things around.

“Despite our best efforts to cut costs, create new academic programs and launch athletic teams, the university is unable to recover from years of declining enrollments and budget deficits,” she said.

The university's 16-acre campus sits next to Washington University in St. Louis. Washington University announced Monday that it agreed to purchase the Fontbonne campus but doesn't have definitive plans for the property.

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