A new president at Notre Dame de Namur University has a new plan for the troubled Belmont institution. 

In a remote meeting Thursday, NDNU’s interim president said the school does not intend to shutter despite widespread “rumors” to the contrary and unveiled a new plan moving forward that entails a shift away from in-person undergraduate programs to online graduate ones.

 Note Dame de Namur University is also planning a dramatic change in the use of its Belmont campus. The goal is to have many of the spaces traditionally used by undergraduate classmen instead be rented to new partners that could include local businesses or nonprofits to generate revenue for the school.

The announcement comes after NDNU officials last year floated the possibility of permanent closure of the school due to its ongoing enrollment and financial challenges. Earlier this year, officials said the school will remain open at least through 2021 to provide an opportunity for seniors to graduate, but they also facilitated the transfers of many underclassmen, suspended enrollment of new students and disbanded the athletics department.

The future of NDNU beyond 2021 remains uncertain, however, officials say they’re continuing to do everything they can to ensure the university remains up and running, albeit with dramatic changes.  

“There’re a lot of rumors out there and the truth is NDNU is not closed and we’re working hard to find a future beyond May 2021,” said Interim President Dan Carey during Thursday’s webinar. “We really desire that NDNU and our facilities continue to serve an educational purpose and be an asset to the local community.”

Carey said officials have decided for the foreseeable future that recruitment of “traditional freshmen with a mission of providing a residential college experience is no longer a viable pathway financially for this university.”

The university will instead explore “transforming the university through a new mission with a primary focus on graduate and online education as well as degree completion,” Carey said.

The university will enroll new students in three “highly reputable” graduate programs currently being offered, Carey said. Those include art therapy, clinical psychology, education and teaching credentials and potentially others.

“We will look to add additional offerings beyond those three going forward,” Carey said, adding the school intends to pursue undergraduate degree completion programs by bolstering its partnership with the San Mateo County Community College District.

With graduate and online courses targeting adults, a majority of the facilities and parking at the Belmont campus will be available for use by potential partners, Carey said. The campus totals 46.3 acres and includes 320,000 square feet of office and classroom space in 24 buildings with more than 600 parking spaces.

“Given the dire financial situation of the university, it’s imperative we explore options to bring in revenue through our facilities, including joint ventures,” Carey said. “We are preparing for a marketing campaign to seek out those partnerships with other education entities, corporations and businesses and not for profit organizations whose mission matches our own.”

Carey said the university will reach out to Silicon Valley businesses about providing corporate training or space for a growing startup.

Carey also said NDNU officials are currently in discussions with the Belmont Parks and Recreation Department about renting the athletic fields, gymnasium and classrooms to generate revenue for the school.

As for the immediate future, all classes will be online for the fall semester while the ability of students to live on campus will be limited, except for hardship cases Carey said. A “super graduation” will occur in May 2021.

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