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The Associated Press July 1, 2010, 5:33PM ET

Neb.'s Dana College closing after 126 years

Colleges in Nebraska and Iowa have agreed to take in students left in limbo in the wake of Dana College's sudden decision to close its doors.

The 126-year-old private college announced the closure late Wednesday, citing the Higher Learning Commission's refusal to back its sale to a group of investors. The commission would not transfer accreditation to the group of investors that announced plans to buy the school in Blair.

Dana officials were making arrangements Thursday to help its 600 to 650 full- and part-time students transfer elsewhere. More than a dozen schools, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, agreed to accommodate them. Dana advisers were to meet with students next week.

"This is unfortunate news for these students and we hope all are able to continue their plans for higher education," said Juan Franco, UNL's vice chancellor for student affairs.

UNL agreed to waive its May 1 deadline for applications for fall semester for Dana students and help them enroll for housing and student aid.

Concordia University in Seward said it would match all Dana scholarships and had set up a hot line for students to reach admissions counselors over the Fourth of July holiday.

Several schools were also reaching out to faculty and staff. Dana spokeswoman Nikki Kinsey said schools were forwarding information about job openings to the college's roughly 130 employees.

A date for the closure has not been decided. Kinsey said the college was expected to be officially closed by July 31. It was unclear whether employees would be paid for any work in July, she said.

Dana's summer classes had been scheduled to run through July 28. Kinsey said a decision on whether those classes would continue would be made on a course-by-course basis.

The future of the campus was still being assessed, Kinsey said.

College officials announced in March that the Dana Education Corporation -- a group of investors and an unnamed private equity firm -- had agreed to buy the school. Terms of the deal, which was expected to close this summer, were not disclosed.

Dana has experienced financial problems and ran significant deficits for several years, and the announcement of a sale came after officials spent the past year evaluating their options.

Dana Education Corporation president Raj Kaji said his group was saddened by the commission's accreditation decision, which college officials called "inaccurate, unfair and based on speculation and information not included in the required change of control request."

Commission spokeswoman Susan Van Kollenburg said Thursday that the sale did not meet the commission policy's for school sales. She declined to elaborate.

The commission policy requires five things for sales: extension of the college's mission and educational programs; continuation of the college's historic affiliation with the commission in regard to its mission and objectives; likelihood that the college will continue to meet accreditation requirements; money to complete the sale; and the new owner's experience in higher education.

Van Kollenburg said the commission's decision leaves room for Dana to submit a new plan for the future. The college's accreditation continues until November if it doesn't close, she said.

Dana college was founded by Danes and has ties to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Dana officials and the investors who had planned to buy the college had said they didn't plan big staff or program changes. Kaji, who previously served as an administrator at the online Walden University, had envisioned doubling enrollment and expanding study-abroad options.

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