Clearwater Christian College’s closing in June left Clearwater students with a gap that Cedarville University is working to fill.
“The closing caught everybody off guard,” said Karisa Linafelter, Cedarville’s associate registrar for academic advising and transfer services. “(Clearwater) students left campus (at the end of the semester) having absolutely no clue that this was going to happen.”
Clearwater announced the closing June 5, 2015, leaving Clearwater students with an unusually short amount of time to find another college.
“These students had, like, two months,” Linafelter said. “It was fast.”
In spite of the short notice, Cedarville responded quickly. Linafelter said Thomas White, Cedarville’s president, immediately contacted the Clearwater administration to find out how the Cedarville administration could help.
Several staff members, including Linafelter, went to Clearwater’s college fair in June to try to connect with students there.
For one transfer student, junior life science education major Harrison Elkins, the fair was his initial interaction with Cedarville University.
Elkins said he noticed Cedarville was prepared and reached out quickly. He said he was impressed that Cedarville had already set up a web page for Clearwater students.
The (representatives) were really nice. They didn’t just want my presence (at Cedarville).
Elkins said Linafelter continued to connect with him after the college fair, sending him welcoming cards and communicating with him in the months to follow.
Throughout the summer, Linafelter worked with Clearwater students individually to try to make the student’s educational goals work at Cedarville.
“I met (with) students pretty much on a weekly basis,” she said.
In addition to meeting with students, Linafelter worked with faculty members and professors to offer substitutes for courses students took at Clearwater.
She also said Cedarville’s faculty and administration were supportive despite many of them being on vacation during the transitioning time.
“I can’t say enough good things about our faculty,” Linafelter said.
Because of the unique circumstances Clearwater students faced, Cedarville University offered modified transfer policies called teach-out plans to the students.
Normally grades would not transfer to Cedarville, but the administration made an exception for Clearwater students, mainly because many of the transfer students were seniors.
“(Cedarville) wanted to honor the hard work (the transfer students) made with their GPAs (at Clearwater),” Linafelter said.
Another difference in the teach-out plan was allowing certain general education requirements to transfer that were usually non-transferable. Linafelter said Clearwater had its own mandatory politics course, similar to politics and American culture (PAC), and Cedarville made an exception for the politics course to transfer as PAC for Clearwater students.
Besides assisting with the transfer of credits, Linafelter also worked with those students that were going to be freshmen at Clearwater. Cedarville simplified the application process for these students.
As Cedarville’s tuition is higher than that of Clearwater, Cedarville also offered a generous scholarship called Pathways to both transfers and would-be freshmen if they chose to attend Cedarville.
The transfer process
Each of the Clearwater transfer programs was individualized.
“They (Clearwater students) weren’t just another student to us,” Linafelter said.
Senior sports and exercise studies major Kaitlin Lowery described her transfer process as a combination of effort between essentially two people: Linafelter and Lowery’s advisor, Evan Hellwig.
“(They) worked behind the scenes while I was still deciding to come (to Cedarville),” Lowery said. “They were going to do their best.”
As a senior, Lowery was mostly done with her program, which followed Clearwater’s exercise and sports science degree, so her transfer plan did not affect her major classes at all.
But Lowery said Hellwig had two main goals for her.
“His (first) goal is not what I graduate with, but to get me as marketable as possible,” Lowery said. “His second goal is to get me done on time.”
Lowery had to add on a Bible class – Theology 2 – once she transferred to Cedarville, despite having completed Clearwater’s Bible minor requirements. But since Cedarville accepted all 108 of Lowery’s transfer credits, both of Hellwig’s goals are set for completion.
For Elkins, his transfer program included a switch from a double major, biology and biology education, to life science education. He said the programs are similar, but the new program includes an increase in math classes and a more rigorous science program.
Students, faculty and records, too
Many of the students that Linafelter interacted with from Clearwater did not choose to transfer. Of the students that she worked with, 24 would-be freshmen and transfers decided to enroll at Cedarville.
In addition to students, two faculty members joined Cedarville from Clearwater: Kris DeWitt, associate professor of psychology, and Brian Kuyatt, the new director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. Both faculty members had to relocate to Ohio from Florida.
Cedarville also took on the role of taking care of Clearwater’s records.
“If you need a Clearwater transcript, call Cedarville,” Linafelter said. “We’ve been getting boxes and boxes of files every day.”
Cedarville has relied on the support of other colleges to find out how to house the Clearwater files effectively.
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln became the custodian of records for Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, which announced its closure in 2010. The registrar’s office at UNL helped answer questions for Cindy Davis, assistant to the registrar at Cedarville, abut how to handle this appropriately.
A helping hand
Elkins said the help Cedarville gave him went beyond his program.
“(Cedarville) reached out in more than academics,” Elkins said. “(As a transfer) it takes long for this to adjust as being my home. Clearwater was (my) first choice. I wasn’t expecting to start college all over again.”
Elkins said he thought he was only going to have to start college once. However, he said people at Cedarville have eased that transition for him, with faculty praying for him and making sure he is welcome.
(The) faculty reached out in sympathy and love.
Part of working with the Clearwater students was helping them with the emotional transition.
“I had to help them process the emotional weight of changing schools,” Linafelter said. “It’s made me appreciate Cedarville in a whole new way.”
From the beginning, as Cedarville administration interacted with the Clearwater students, they let students know they realized not all of them wanted to transfer to Cedarville. Linafelter said her role was simply to help the students through the forced decision.
“(I) helped them understand that Cedarville is a great school and a very like-minded school, just on a bigger scale,” Linafelter said.
For several of the Clearwater transfers, Cedarville’s willingness to be there and emotionally support the students without pressuring them to enroll at Cedarville was a great blessing, Lowery said.
“It was a comfort to have Christians that you knew were praying for you when they said they were,” she said.
But encouragement for Clearwater students did not come exclusively from Cedarville’s administration during their time of transition. Chapel and worshiping with the student body have also played a role.
“I’m very glad that my new school has chapels just like my old school,” Lowery said.
She said the messages preached by Clayton King during Cedarville’s Fall Bible Conference were especially relevant to her as she grappled with the transition to Cedarville.
“If there was ever a time I felt like God had those sermons especially picked out for me, it was then,” Lowery said. “I was able to really feel like I was healing from all the hurt and sorrow of this summer. … I know I am still working on the process of dealing with a forced transfer my senior year, but the process is refining me and helping me grow more like Christ, which is the goal of the Christian life. Knowing that God is working on me, to help me grow more like his son helps me keep going.”
Rebekah Erway is a sophomore English major and reporter for Cedars. She is a die-hard Disney, VeggieTales and Lord of the Rings fan, and she enjoys speaking in a British accent.