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Saint Leo University is closing Jacksonville center

Published on February 17, 2023 at 4:08 pm

Saint Leo University has announced plans to cease operations at several campuses — including two in Jacksonville — along with eliminating some sports programs and discontinuing three degree programs.

In a news release, university officials say it’s an effort to streamline operations at the 134-year-old nonprofit Catholic institution based in Pasco County. Enrollment trends showed an “opportunity to improve efficiencies and enhance its future offerings for students,” the release said.

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Officials announced it will be closing eight education education centers, including ones in Jacksonville, Lake City, Ocala and Mayport, along with locations in South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas.

The Jacksonville center, at Oakleaf Town Center, is one of 15 in five states, according to the Saint Leo website. Saint Leo also will close a location at Naval Station Mayport, the Jacksonville Business Journal reported.

The center’s Facebook page included a post saying only, “Students, please check your university email for an important update about a change in operations for the Jacksonville Education Center.”

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The university’s moves will eliminate 111 faculty and staff positions — of which 27% were recently vacant, according to the news release.

In the release Thursday, Saint Leo University President Ed Dadez said the changes were part of his plans to “create a reimagined vision for the university — one that will make a Benedictine Catholic, value-based education more accessible to people everywhere.”

“Throughout its history, Saint Leo University has continually evolved to meet the needs of students — from opening education centers on military bases to being one of the first to offer online degree programs,” said Dadez, a longtime Saint Leo administrator who was named president in July. “The future vision for our university will continue on this course, including more educational partnerships with businesses and organizations, customized pathways for earning degrees and new investments in our online learning program. “We will continue innovating our offerings to support the new learning needs of students and today’s workforce.”

Among the changes:

  • Six unidentified intercollegiate athletic programs out of 23 will be discontinued after their seasons. According to the release, those programs are currently competing on the road and will be notified upon their return.
  • Degree programs in the College of Education and Social Services will be absorbed into other colleges by the end of the academic year.
  • The university will discontinue the following degree programs: bachelor’s degree in international hospitality, bachelor’s degree in human services, and master’s degree in human services. Students enrolled in those programs will be assisted with a plan to finish their degrees.

Students enrolled at the campuses that are closing will be transitioned to online learning.

Despite the changes, university officials said they will focus growing the university’s bachelor’s degree program in nursing, along with its newly established School of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Data Science.

“Reducing our university’s footprint and programs will allow us to focus more strategically on areas and opportunities with high demand,” said Stacy Gato, vice president for strategic enrollment management. “We are always looking for ways to innovate and enhance the services we provide to students.”

School officials say the university will continue to work with local businesses and organizations to “support their professional development needs and establish new talent pipelines for skilled employees in high-demand fields.”

“The university already maintains strong partnerships with many school districts, law enforcement agencies, faith-based groups and other organizations,” said Mark Gesner, vice president of community engagement and communications. “We look forward to growing our community partnerships and being a full-service education and training partner for many more businesses, nonprofits and groups of all sizes.”

Thursday’s announcement comes nearly a year after university officials called off a proposed merger between Saint Leo and Marymount California University, which would have operated under the Saint Leo name.

Randy Roguski from Jacksonville Today contributed to this report.

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