URBANA, Ohio Urbana University Pitcher Jake Fishburn was looking forward to the college baseball season, but the Coronavirus pandemic cut that short.
“We were just kind of getting into the swing of things,” Fishburn said. “We had actually, went up and beat Akron university the night before. Then 24 hours later it was all over.”
- Urbana University announced it is closing permanently following the Spring 2020 term
- Urbana University was founded in 1850, and was rounding out its 170th year in higher education
- Urbana University currently has 1,254 students enrolled
But that was just the start of the changes facing Fishburn and his teammates. Now, Urbana University has announced their college, which has been around since 1850, is now closing, partially due to the virus.
“I think all of us are kind of speechless right now,” he said.
He says the announcement is a huge blow to the city of Urbana, as the school is a rallying point for the community.
"Not just for the athletes, for the community as well, I’m sure it’s overwhelming for everyone,” Fishburn said.
The closure means baseball, among all athletic programs at Urbana, are no more. It also means that the 1,254 students enrolled are now being absorbed into Franklin University, through online coursework.
Urbana has been operating as a branch campus of Franklin University since April 2014. Franklin University President Dr. David Decker says it’s a sad day, but ultimately the closure had to be made.
“Urbana University was about to go out of business in 2014,” Decker said. “Franklin stepped in and invested a lot of money and a lot of effort in an attempt to sustain and preserve the 150-year tradition of Urbana University. We made some progress at that, achieved some results. But the uncertainty, as I say from this pandemic, just make it impossible to see a pathway for economic viability for the campus.”
Seventy-five percent of the students enrolled are already taking classes solely online. So most will feel no impact by the transition. Decker says he hopes all can continue to work toward their academic goals.
“With the 350-or so residential students, we will work with each one of them to make sure they have the maximum opportunity to finish their degrees on time,” Decker said. “We want everyone to succeed, and we believe we’ll be able to do that.”
He says students who wish to transfer to another university will be assisted by Franklin to do so.
Another group impacted by the closure is the 111 full-time employees. Decker says a small number will be offered continued employment with Franklin, but most will not, but they will receive severance pay.
“We did our very best to have a very fair and dignified and respectful severance package, and I believe we have succeeded,” he said.
And for students-athletes like Fishburn, moving forward isn’t going to be easy, nor is it the path they envisioned when committing to Urbana — but he knows he has to keep a level head to make the best decision to continue his athletic career.
“I feel for all of us, I hope that everyone kind of figures out where we are supposed to go,” Fishburn said. “Urbana is a real tight-knit community. Everyone is a family, all of us support each other a lot. So I hope nothing but the best for everyone that I’ve met up here.”
For more information on the closure of Urbana University, visit their website.