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Morthland College

A building on the Morthland College campus in West Frankfort is seen in October.

WEST FRANKFORT — Morthland College, the beleaguered private Christian college in West Frankfort, will be closing its doors permanently, according to an attorney who represents the school. 

Attorney Aaron Hopkins represents the college and confirmed to The Southern on Saturday that Morthland College will end its operation after about seven years. 

College graduated its final class earlier this month. 

Troubles began for the school last year when, after an internal review by the Department of Education, the school's ability to access federal student aid was cut off. They were put on Heightened Cash Monitoring II status by the DOE, meaning they had to spend their own money upfront and apply for reimbursement from the federal agency, as opposed to drawing down money at the top of a semester. 

The Illinois Board of Higher Education also took action against the college following a lengthy letter from the DOE alleging "illegal" activity, working with prep sports academies to improperly draw down federal student aid for students at the sports academies. They were registered in online classes and not considered regular students, according to the DOE letter.

“Morthland’s misconduct is exemplified by its illegal disbursement of Title IV funds to ineligible students, its improper retention of unearned funds when students ceased attending, its improper handling of Title IV credit balances, its use of an inflated cost of attendance, and its failure to meet Title IV institutional and program eligibility requirements,” Susan D. Crim, director of the department's Administrative Actions and Appeals Service Group, wrote.

The IBHE put together an investigation that could have resulted in the revocation of the college's operating ability.

"Exactly 501 days since its last dispersement of federal funds, Morthland College announces that the institution will not open in the Fall of 2018," said a press release from the college.

"Its campus resides in one of the most impoverished counties in the state, where over 90 percent of Morthland College students are in need of federal funding to attend college, and, without a timeline for settlement or the restoration of these funding lines, the institution simply does not have the fiscal resources to open this fall," the release continues.

According to the press release, Morthland College has not yet received a final program review report from the DOE and its appeal of the 2017 emergency action letter has been in negotiation with the DOE since November but the parties have not been able to come to an agreement. 

"Morthland College continues to deny all allegations set forth in the Department’s emergency action letter and remains an ongoing 501C3, not for profit, in good standing with the State of Illinois," the release states. 

The release indicates that the college "remains dedicated" to settling the issues it has with the DOE "whether through an amicable settlement agreement on the part of both parties, a request for a hearing, or through a process for appeals, all of which are pathways given to the institution under the Department of Education’s own statutes." The release states that the timeline for these processes to play out cannot be determined at this time.

According to the release, the college remains in cooperation with the IBHE and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools — the college's accrediting agency— "in providing pathways for transferability of credit for its current student body and the releasing of academic records for both its current and former students upon request."

The release indicates that some of the other businesses associated with Morthland College — the so-called "guilds" — remain unaffected and have relocated from Franklin to Williamson County, but did not specifically name which ones. There previously was the Da Vinci Beverages company as well as Morthland College Health Services and several other businesses connected to the college through leadership. 

The release said the institutions, the college included, that have had to close their doors, represent 150 jobs lost in what is an already economically depressed region.

Several employees of the college and other Morthland entities have complained of non-payment and some vendors have even sued in civil court to receive payment.

Morthland College and its sister business, Morthland College Health Services, were both also served several IRS tax liens totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Questions regarding the status of these liens were unanswered by college representatives.

Current and former students with questions are asked to contact college representatives at: 1-779-216-5930 or info@morthland.edu.

Contractor, employee complain of nonpayment from Morthland guilds

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Reporter

Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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