Midland Lutheran to take in half of Dana students

By Margery A. Beck
Associated Press Writer / July 7, 2010

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FREMONT, Neb.—Midland Lutheran College is picking up where another small, private college just 30 miles away left off when it announced its closure last week.

Midland Lutheran officials said Wednesday that the Fremont college is on track to take in nearly half of Dana College's 600-plus students and is adding four new athletic programs that will be run by former Dana coaches. Midland also is taking steps to hire some of Dana's faculty members.

Dana, which had a 126-year history in Blair, announced its closure last week, months after it announced that a group of investors had bought it and planned to convert it to a for-profit enterprise. The closure was forced after the Higher Learning Commission refused to transfer accreditation to the group of investors.

Some 275 former Dana students are expected to attend Midland in the fall, Midland President Ben Sasse said Wednesday, and 209 have filled out initial paperwork to that end.

The Fremont school is making the move fairly seamless, allowing transfer of all Dana credits, honoring all Dana academic, athletic and need-based scholarships and grants and waiving enrollment deposits.

Midland also is allowing Dana students to retain their current roommates, and Dana summer student workers are being offered summer jobs and free housing at Midland starting July 15.

The athletic programs being added by Midland include adding men's and women's bowling, a competitive dance and cheer squad, wrestling and women's lacrosse. The head coaches and some assistant coaches from those and other athletic programs at Dana have received temporary or permanent contract offers. A meeting set for later Wednesday with former Dana coaches is anticipated to draw more of Dana's head coaches to Midland.

Midland already was considering adding several new athletic programs when Dana announced its plans to close, Sasse said.

"We have a multimillion-dollar investment fund for moments like this," Sasse said. "Before accepting my appointment here as president, the board raised a significant pool of cash that is allowing us to make a positive impact. We are fortunate that we now have the cash to do it."

The Great Plains Athletic Conference has decided to allow Dana students to transfer without sitting out a year, Sasse said.

Among the head coaches from Dana taking new positions at Midland is wrestling head coach Beau Vest, who, before joining Dana in 2008, led Missouri Valley College to two NAIA national team titles and three runner-up finishes. Vest is bringing three assistant coaches and nearly all of his team with him to Midland.

Several Dana staffers have been hired in admissions, alumni relations, student services and information technology to assist with the influx of students, Midland officials said.

The process of hiring Dana faculty will take more time, officials said, because faculty hires must be approved by a governing committee of Midland faculty leadership. However, the Midland board of trustees met last weekend to approve the formation of an emergency faculty committee to immediately begin the process for reviewing faculty candidates from Dana.

The committee will meet this week and is expected to extend job offers to Dana candidates in the next few weeks.

Midland also is offering help to recent Dana graduates looking for jobs. Midland officials are encouraging Dana alumni to contact the director of Midland's Career Resources Center for help.

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