Finlandia University is the latest private college to fall

To preserve Finlandia University's roots in Finnish culture, Finlandia Foundation National partnered with the school to preserve its Finnish American Heritage Center and related artifacts.

Michigan’s only private university in the state’s upper peninsula, Finlandia University, announced last week it will not enroll students for fall 2023, officially marking its closure at the conclusion of the current academic year.

“We, as a board and leadership team, left no stone unturned in our attempts to move Finlandia forward toward a healthier future,” wrote Michael Nakkula, chair of Finlandia’s Board of Trustees in a statement. “While none of us wanted this day to come, we also have realized that to honor Finlandia’s 126‐year‐old legacy appropriately, we must end its operations with as much grace and dignity as possible.”

The school’s enrollment—and consequently its revenue—has suffered from a dwindling pool of local high school students and a lack of interest among those graduates for a college education, according to the Board’s letter. Facing “an unbearable debt load,” leadership chose not to enroll future students.

Finlandia University is the latest school from a growing list this academic year to close its doors. The majority of those schools were also small private colleges with a theological background. In November, The Hechinger Report found 861 colleges had closed since 2004.

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Finlandia University will hold one last commencement ceremony for students who complete their degree requirements by the end of the year. Northern Michigan University, Michigan Technological University, Adrian College, Bay College and Wartburg College have agreed to take in the school’s remaining students in good standing. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula remains with three public universities and four community colleges.

Established in 1896 as Suomi College by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, its founders’ mission centered on preserving national identity and teaching English while Finnish immigrants labored in Hancock’s bustling copper and lumber industries. It is one of 26 schools affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church. To preserve its roots in Finnish culture and history, Finlandia Foundation National partnered with the school to preserve the school’s Finnish American Heritage Center and its related artifacts. Finlandia University was the last remaining higher education institution in North America to be founded by Finnish settlers.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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