Saint Joseph's College students forced to transfer

 Shawntel James and Bailey Brouwer / Saint Joseph's College freshman
Shawntel James and Bailey Brouwer / Saint Joseph's College freshman (WNDU)
Published: Mar. 10, 2017 at 2:21 PM EST
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Questions remain after a 127-year-old Catholic institution in Rensselaer, Ind. made an abrupt decision to close its doors after graduation in May.

Saint Joseph’s College broke the news in early February, much to the surprise of parents, students, teachers and alumni.

In many ways, this has turned the school community upside down. Now, students who, just months ago had no doubt that they would receive their diplomas from Saint Joe, are scrambling to find other schools where they will be able to finish their college careers.

Friday, Shawntel James and Bailey Brouwer revisited the fun memories they've shared as Saint Joseph’s College roommates. They are home in Elkhart on spring break.

“We were instantly crying, because it's a big shock and we weren't expecting it. And it's like, we just got done doing the recruiting process last year so we have to do it all over again,” said Bailey Brouwer, Saint Joseph’s College freshman.

Students are expected to finish spring semester, all the while, knowing they won't be returning in the fall.

“I wouldn't have went there if I would've known that. Our coaches didn't even know either, so it was like a slap in the face to everyone,” said Shawntel James, Saint Joseph’s College freshman.

The girls both attended high school in Elkhart; James at Jimtown and Brouwer at Elkhart Memorial. They entered Saint Joe with athletic scholarships, and play for the Puma volleyball team.

Scholarships that are now being ripped away.

“You work hard to try to play somewhere in high school and you go through travel and you spend so much money. You work for that scholarship through four years of high school and then it's stripped away from you,” said Brouwer.

Brouwer will be transferring to Elmhurst College in Illinois, while James is still weighing her options.

“The biggest problem with going to other schools is trying to transfer that core program over and some of them don't transfer,” said James. “It’s like you're comparing every school to Saint Joe and it's very hard to choose a school that can fit you, just like Saint Joe fit us.”

Students who do not graduate in May are being forced to transfer. Brouwer and James say their teachers and coaches have been instrumental during this transition, but say the administration has left this tight-knit community in the dark.

The girls' mothers, who we interviewed in February, say they still have not received one word of school-to-parent communication since the announcement. Only the tuition bills, which are still coming in the mail.

Saint Joseph’s College administrators have ultimately refused to connect us with the school's president, Dr. Pastoor for an interview. It's been over a month now that we've been trying to get him on the phone, and we are still told he is “unavailable.”

For the school to stay afloat, it needs $20 million by June and $100 million overall. Alumni are working hard to reach this goal, but so far have only raised half a million dollars.

In the next few weeks, Involved for Life, the group trying to save the school, will be hosting several fundraising events.

For details on these events and to learn more about Involved for Life, click


To watch our news report from February 10, click


To watch our original report on the announcement, click