The coronavirus has significantly altered life since reaching its way to the United States. This week, it affected Urbana University.
Franklin University chose to discontinue physical operations of Urbana University after the spring 2020 semester has ended, leaving students looking for new homes on Tuesday.
In 2014, Urbana University’s assets were acquired by Franklin University in order to effectively serve students. In 2017, through approval by the Higher Learning Commission, Franklin brought Urbana under its accreditation as a branch campus.
"Our highest priority is to ensure students experience a seamless transition of their academic studies and that our branch campus employees have the resources to make their transition as well," Franklin University Dr. David Decker said. "As institutions of higher education across the country struggle to identify ways to stay open, we will do all we can to help students identify the best alternative forward to fulfill their education goals in an affordable manner."
As a result of this decision, academic programming will be moved to Franklin University, while athletic offerings and on-site administrative roles will cease at the Urbana branch campus.
That sent Nordonia’s Justice Alexander (football), Stow-Munroe Falls’ Mike Young (football) and Aurora’s Anna Davis (volleyball) scrambling.
All are current students at Urbana and now must enter the transfer portal if they want to continue their athletic careers.
"It was very surprising because there was no sign it was going to happen," said Alexander, who is a senior. "When everyone else found out is when we found out. It was like, how can that possibly happen?
"It caught everybody by surprise. The whole team is hurting. It affected everyone. It could have been handled so much better. There’s no way the school closed down and no one knew about it. It’s like dealing with the loss of a family member and then finding a new family. It’s very difficult. You get close to these people."
The defensive end has already been contacted by other schools, but the communication major wants to make sure he’s taken care of from an academic standpoint as well.
That’s the biggest piece of the puzzle for many displaced athletes. All have been through the recruiting process before, but now that many are into their majors, it’s imperative to make sure both pieces fit.
Young is a sophomore and has three years left of eligibility to find that perfect fit.
The problem with school potentially starting in the fall is that the timeline has been sped up so much, decisions have to be made soon by the exercise science major.
"It’s been crazy. Trying to find a new family is just sad," Young said. "All these schools are showing interest. There’s a lot of options and I don’t know where to go. I don’t know how soon I’m going to make this decision. It’s a big struggle because Urbana is what I was looking for. I can’t go on visits because of the pandemic."
Along with the students, 111 full-time employees will be affected by the closure, but a number of them will be offered employment at Franklin University. Those who don’t continue will be offered severance packages that include outplacement assistance.
That said, the upcoming weeks will be critical for all those involved.
Hopefully, for students like Davis, who will be a senior in the fall, it’s at least one more season.
"It’s weird to think about right now," the criminal justice and psychology major said. "I always thought about finishing out at Urbana and having senior night with my incoming class. It’ll be nice if I get another season. This has made me appreciate volleyball even more."