Memphis College of Art: Closing Information

The Board of Directors of the College, facing declining enrollment, overwhelming real estate debt, and no viable long-term plan for financial sustainability, has voted to stop recruiting new students, effective immediately, and begin making plans to close the College.
MCA will begin the orderly dissolution of MCA’s real estate and other assets to fund the College’s debt obligations and other liabilities, including providing sufficient funding to serve existing students who remain at MCA. At the conclusion of fulfilling its obligations to existing students who remain in good standing, MCA will close. The precise period of time for this wind-down (“teach-out”) has yet to be determined; the College anticipates it will last through May 2020.
“It is with great sadness that we move forward with this decision,” said MCA Board Chair Henry P. Doggrell.
The Board vote resulted from a long process that eventually determined that an independent, private fine arts and design college is no longer financially sustainable in Memphis. The College’s situation is not unique – small private colleges face financial challenges across the country. Over the last months, we have cut costs to operate as efficiently as possible, but it wasn’t sufficient to sustain operations beyond the current academic year without continued significant community support.
During the “teach-out” period, MCA will continue its long-standing tradition of offering Community Education programs, including the Fashion Certificate Program, summer camps, and adult art classes. Many of the College’s community partnerships will continue as well. MCA’s popular Holiday Bazaar will take place as scheduled on November 17-18, with net proceeds funding existing student scholarships.
“This has been a heartbreaking process,” said MCA Interim President Laura Hine. “But we remain proud of the creative energy MCA artists have long brought to Memphis, and are eternally grateful to the donors and foundations who have sustained us throughout our 81-year history. The tremendous value of the artistic contributions made by MCA faculty, students, and graduates, over many decades, simply can’t be captured in words.”
“In the immediate term our attention is focused on the internal MCA family – our students, our faculty and our staff. Going forward, we will rely on the thousands of MCA alumni in Memphis and across the country to carry on the legacy of the College through their art, their creative energy, and their innovation.”
General FAQ’s
1. Is MCA closing immediately?
No. We will not admit any new students and instead will focus on serving current students who remain at MCA in good academic standing. When we fulfill our obligations to these students, Memphis College of Art will close.
2. Is Memphis College of Art merging with another college?
No. Memphis College of Art is not admitting new students effective immediately and will instead dedicate its resources to its existing students.
3. How did the College get to this position?
Economic challenges face all of the higher education market, especially small, private colleges. For MCA in particular, declining enrollment, a small endowment, and real estate debt have contributed to the precarious financial state of the College for several years. The leadership of the College (the Cabinet and the Board) worked hard to structure a sustainable model for the future, but was unable to do so.
4. How do you plan to close the College?
MCA is working with its accrediting organizations and other counselors to develop teach-out plans for the proper close-down of the College. The details of the plan are not yet finalized and, most importantly, will be driven by an overarching focus on the welfare of MCA’s current students.
5. If MCA doesn’t have money now, how will it carry on its operations until it closes?
MCA has valuable real estate assets that will be sold. The proceeds will be dedicated to meet MCA’s obligations. We will also rely on the continued generosity of donors to help MCA as we serve those students who remain at MCA.
6. Will all assets be sold?
Yes, over time all of the assets of MCA will be sold, beginning with real estate assets. Rust Hall and equipment will be retained for teaching out our students.
7. After the teach out, what’s going to happen to Rust Hall in Overton Park?
We are working with all stakeholders to determine the best disposition of Rust Hall in order to preserve this iconic building and ensure it maintains its prominent and important place in Overton Park.
8. Who owns Rust Hall?
MCA owns Rust Hall, on land owned by the City of Memphis and leased to MCA under a long-term lease.
9. Will events and exhibitions still take place?
Yes. Exhibitions, shows and traditional events, such as Holiday Bazaar, will continue. Our 67th Annual Holiday Bazaar and Fundraiser is scheduled for November 17 and 18 in the Rust Hall gallery, with net proceeds funding existing student scholarships.
10. Will Community Education and Summer Art Camp continue?
Yes. MCA plans to continue Community Education programs during the teach out. Please continue to visit our website for a listing of the available classes and the recently introduced Fashion Design Certificate Program.

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