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Published: Wednesday, 8/7/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Tiffin U. online venture to end

Nearly 40 get pink slips from program run with private firm

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Nearly 40 employees who worked at a Tiffin University online associate’s degree division were laid off Monday after an announcement the school will close soon.

Ivy Bridge College, opened in 2008, is a joint venture between nonprofit Tiffin University and Altius Education, a for-profit company.

The partners had hoped to sell Ivy Bridge after it received independent accreditation. Instead, the regional accreditation body that covers Ohio, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, told Tiffin two weeks ago to divest from its partnership, accept no new students, and close the school by Oct. 20.

Ivy Bridge’s impending closing prompted the layoff of 31 Altius staff based at the school’s South Toledo headquarters, said Paul Freedman, chief executive officer of California-based Altius.

“We had to downsize by 31 people due to the very short and unexpected time horizon we were given by HLC,” Mr. Freedman said.

Tiffin University also laid off eight staffers because of the imminent closing, according to a university spokesman. Those laid off are four tutors, a librarian, a financial-aid counselor, a registration and records coordinator, and a student-accounts clerk.

The cuts were the second this year of staff that worked at Ivy Bridge. In early June, 35 full-time and two part-time employees were laid off after officials with the joint venture decided to no longer pursue independent accreditation for Ivy Bridge in the face of commission scrutiny. Those June layoffs, Mr. Freedman said, included both Altius and Tiffin University employees.

Mr. Freedman said laid-off Altius staff were given severance packages, though he declined to describe what employees received.

In a written statement issued Friday, the Higher Learning Commission said it initiated a review of Ivy Bridge in 2012. It said its preliminary findings raised concerns about course quality, academic rigor, student retention, and lack of participation by Tiffin U. in financial decision-making.

Ivy Bridge students have options to finish their degrees, including transfer to Tiffin University’s bachelor’s degree program or to another college.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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