Franciscan University in Clinton is being sold in a nine-million dollar deal to Bridgepoint Education of California. The sale should be complete by the middle of March. Sister Jan Cebule is president of the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton. She explains the nuns once made up a larger presence in eastern Iowa, running a school that aimed to produce more teachers for the region. The sisters started Mount Saint Clare College in 1918, an outgrowth of the Mount St. Clare Academy they’d founded in 1893, to offer courses to sisters so they could qualify as schoolteachers, and also to train young women in the area to become teachers. It’s grown over the years to a four-year college and became co-educational, admitting men as well. It’s also begun offering Masters-level courses, with its first graduates last May. Just last year the school changed its name to “The Franciscan University of the Prairies.” Sister Cebula says the school’s been looking for partners, to keep the school viable as the number of nuns dwindled. Because of the changing educational environment and the decreasing number of sisters, she says they felt it was time to find a sponsor “in order to carry on the mission.” She says the school’s always tried to meet the needs of the times, as shown in the addition of computer technology to its teacher-education curriculum. Under the new owners, the school will no longer be a non-profit, and students will no longer be able to get Iowa Tuition grants, a state financial-aid program that’s had over 130 participants this year at the school. But the head of the religious order says they’ll continue to have their own scholarship program. Four sisters involved in teaching or administration will remain at the University, and the sisters will oversee the endowment account and offer scholarships to future. She adds gifts to the school will continue to provide scholarships. Sister Cebula says the Clincon Franciscans see the move as positive, and think the school will offer more courses and a wider field of opportunity to students. The school’s name will be changed to Ashford University, according to Bridgepoint spokesman Charles Seigel, though the mascot will remain. Seigel says it will no longer be a religious institution anymore, but they plan to uphold many of the values and some of the traditions, but they wanted to change the name to make that clear. He says not much else will change, especially the sports programs. Seigel says the existing staff will remain and more staff could be added as the university grows.
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