Chatfield done as liberal arts college

The 51-year-old Chatfield College plans to transition from a two-year, private liberal arts college to a nonprofit focused on supporting postsecondary education attainment, beginning in January.  

The Chatfield Edge will be the name of the new nonprofit, which will provide education attainment services, academic scholarships, mentoring and job readiness support to qualified first-generation and non-traditional students in Greater Cincinnati. 

As a result of the transition, fall 2022 will be the final semester for academic classes at the college’s Over-the-Rhine campus in downtown Cincinnati and its 100-acre St. Martin campus in Brown County, Ohio. The downtown building at Liberty and Central Parkway will be sold.  

Robert Elmore

“We have always operated on the principle that we are successful if our students end up in a better place than where we met them,” said Robert Elmore, who became Chatfield’s president in January 2020. “Even with this transition, that is still the heart of our mission. It’s part of a 177-year legacy started by the Ursulines of Brown County. There are ways for us to deliver on this mission for many years to come, but to do that, we must make a change and adapt to today’s declining enrollment and demographic trends.”

The school will transition some of its 60 staff and faculty to the new business model. The organization has a $6 million endowment and total assets of about $14 million, according to its most recent annual report in 2021, its 50th anniversary as a college.

Chatfield College will work individually with its approximately 100 current students enrolled for the fall semester to map out an appropriate transfer plan for the 2023 spring semester and help them utilize services from The Chatfield Edge moving forward. All current Chatfield College students will be able to complete the fall semester at Chatfield College. Chatfield has arranged teach-out agreements with Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and Southern State Community College for students expected to graduate in the spring of 2023, so they can complete their degrees on time.  

“Supporting our students and staff as we make this transition is our number one priority,” said Elmore, who served as the school’s chief operating officer for seven years before becoming president. “While we will no longer teach classes or confer associate degrees, we will do everything in our power to ensure those who want a postsecondary education have the resources and support they need to reach their educational goals.” 

The Chatfield Edge will focus on assisting underserved populations – adult learners, first-generation college students, and students who have tried college before and failed but want to return. Services will include assistance in choosing a field of study, identifying the right institution to meet the student’s goals, college application and FAFSA assistance, career counseling and mentoring, and providing scholarship funds. Many of these are services Chatfield College offers its students today, so that part of Chatfield’s model remains the same.

“We decided to change our operating model after a strategic and thoughtful process as to how best to serve our non-traditional students,” said Elmore. “Given enrollment declines accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and demographic trends that show decreasing numbers of high school graduates, transitioning now provides the best path forward. It allows us to conserve our endowment and maximize our resources, so we can continue to support students in our community through education for years to come.”

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