Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A northwest Ohio university has announced plans to close its online associate's degree division this fall.

Tiffin University informed students last week through Facebook and email it is discontinuing degree programs through Ivy Bridge College on Oct. 20, according to a report by The Toledo Blade.
The 5-year-old Ivy Bridge enrolled some 2,000 of the nonprofit university's 6,900 students last year. It is run by Altius University, a limited liability company.

The newspaper reported university officials sought independent accreditation for Ivy Bridge, with an eye toward it being sold to private investors and run as a for-profit college.

President Paul Marion said the accreditation proposal was withdrawn for lack of support from a national accrediting association, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Officials said a July 25 letter from the commission dictated that Ivy Bridge be shut down. The commission said in a statement to the newspaper that it had given the university the choice of resubmitting Ivy Bridge for accreditation or severing ties with Altius.

The article said Altius was the brainchild in 2007 of Tiffin's then-vice president for enrollment Cam Cruickshank and a university software vendor named Paul Freedman. Freedman and his investors provided start-up funds for Ivy Bridge that Tiffin didn't have.

"This leaves a big hole in our hearts and also probably (our) wallets," Freedman said.

Ivy Bridge's closure comes as for-profit colleges and the Higher Learning Commission that accredits many of them have been criticized for deceptive enrollment practices, possible student aid fraud, poor graduation rates, and excessive marketing budgets, among other things.

The commission initiated a review of Ivy Bridge last year.

Preliminary findings raised concerns about course quality, academic rigor, student retention, and lack of participation by the university in financial decision-making, the newspaper reported. The Ohio Board of Regents is also investigating a complaint as part of its standard reauthorization review of the university regarding Ivy Bridge issuing unauthorized transcripts.

Since failing to get accreditation for Ivy Bridge, Tiffin University has laid off 35 full-time employees and two part-time tutors at Ivy Bridge's South Toledo headquarters, a spokesman said. Officials said they don't know how many more jobs may be lost because of Ivy Bridge's closure.

One online student, 51-year-old Joan Coressel of Port Clinton, told the newspaper she was set to graduate in February and the announcement has left her future uncertain.

"I was planning on moving after I finished my degree," she said. "Well, now I'm in limbo. I have no idea what I am going to be doing."

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Information from: The Blade, http://www.toledoblade.com/