Finlandia University to end operations, not enroll students for the 2023-2024 academic year

The university won't enroll students for the 2023-2024 academic year
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 3:56 PM EST
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HANCOCK, Mich. (WLUC) - Finlandia University’s Board of Trustees announced Thursday that Finlandia will not enroll students for the 2023-2024 academic year.

A press release states the decision follows months of continuous efforts to find pathways for the university to continue its mission.

“I am deeply saddened to announce that due to a combination of demographic changes, with fewer high school graduates available, a steep decrease in interest in going to college among those graduates, and an unbearable debt load, Finlandia’s Board of Trustees met and have decided to not enroll students for the 2023-2024 school year,” the Board wrote in its statement.

In a letter to Finlandia’s students, faculty and staff, Finlandia President Timothy Pinnow wrote to his community saying the decision follows months of herculean efforts and constant and repeated attempts to mend Finlandia University’s finances and enrollment struggles.

“I do want to assure you that the leadership team, the Board of Trustees and myself have left no stone unturned in an attempt to avoid this day,” Pinnow said in his letter. “Our efforts have been noble and unceasing and while none of us wanted this day to come, we have also realized that in order to honor Finlandia’s 126-year-old legacy appropriately, we must end its operations with grace and dignity.

Pinnow continued, “As the leadership of Finlandia, our focus must now turn first to making sure that all of our students have good options to complete their education at another institution and that we can fulfill our intent that our employees be paid for all the work and tireless effort they have put into this little Finnish-Lutheran school way up north in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

The board stated that President Pinnow and his leadership team are working diligently to help Finlandia’s current students wrap up their studies and will help them smoothly transition to another college or university to complete their education.

Finlandia University has finalized five teach-out Agreements with Michigan Technological University, Northern Michigan University, Bay College, Adrian College, and Wartburg College.

In fall 2021, Finlandia reported an enrollment of 430 students. Numbers for this academic year weren’t currently available. Finlandia also did not release the number of impacted faculty and staff.

A letter from NMU’s president says there are “400 or so” students and 170 faculty and staff:

It was hard to hear this afternoon’s news about Finlandia University (FinnU) in Hancock making the decision to close. As you can imagine this was not an easy decision for the University to come to, and I’m sure you join me when I say Northern community members will do all that we can to support the 400 or so FinnU students and 170 faculty and staff.

Finlandia has asked Northern and other institutions to partner in its teach-out endeavors and we have readily agreed to do so. Northern and Finlandia are in the process of signing a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for NMU to do the following regarding the teach-out partnership:

  • Extend guaranteed admission to qualified Finlandia students;
  • Have NMU admissions counselors work directly with FinnU students, providing them personalized attention to evaluate and support their individual needs regarding academic program planning and course registration. A webpage for FinnU students to access information on how to receive this guidance has been created;
  • Have colleges and academic departments address students’ specific needs regarding NMU graduation requirements for FinnU students close to degree completion;
  • Work with the Higher Learning Commission to navigate the accreditation aspects of the teach-out partnership.

Finlandia offers several programs that overlap with NMU programs, including nursing, criminal justice, psychology, and business. We will work with students in FinnU programs not offered at Northern, including physical therapy assistant, sports management and healthcare management, to review NMU alternatives that may be a good fit.

Students who participate in the teach-out with Northern will ultimately earn an NMU degree. We’ll work with flexibility to ensure both the integrity of an NMU degree and the time invested in studies.

I’ll thank everyone in advance for welcoming Finlandia students into the NMU community. If you have colleagues at Finlandia, I encourage you to reach out to them to see in what other ways NMU might be able to help with this tremendously difficult upcoming transition.

Michigan Tech responded to the news with a statement:

For more than 120 years, Finlandia University has made a positive impact on the communities of the Copper Country and in the lives of its students, faculty, and staff. Michigan Technological University is saddened to see Finlandia close its doors and will work with the administration to make sure Finlandia students have opportunities to continue their education available to them.

As an initial step, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with Finlandia to identify students who have earned at least 60 credits at Finlandia and whose academic programs align with programs available at Tech. Those students will be eligible to finish their studies at Michigan Tech. Students with fewer than 60 credits will be eligible to apply to Michigan Tech as transfer students.