President Beck Taylor announced last week that Whitworth’s Costa Rica Center will be suspended for next year’s fall and spring semesters to the Whitworth community. Students planning to study at the center next year will now have to find alternative study abroad programs. “We are terribly sorry that those students will need to find other study abroad options,” Jennifer Brown, chair of the world languages and cultures department, said. “We have lots of options. But not the Costa Rica Center next year.”
Program leaders are hoping to keep the center open for Jan Term 2015.
“What they are thinking will happen is that there will be no classes there for fall and spring, but that they’ll still have the Jan Term honors students there,” Brown said. Taylor presented the budget cuts last week to the Whitworth community.
“On a financial basis, is the program supporting itself?” Taylor said to faculty at the governance meeting. “And the answer to that is unequivocally no.” Roughly $400,000 will be recouped by suspending operations in the fall and spring semesters of 2014-15.
“I hope to reopen it in 2015. But I don’t know the answer,” Taylor said.
Staff members, such as Program Director Lindy Scott, will be returning to Whitworth to teach, Brown said.
“We will still have to maintain the property and have a security presence there,” Brown said. “So it will not be completely closed, of course. But there will be no people there, no staff.”
Taylor outlined options, such as finding a new business model, or collaborating with other universities. This could involve students from other universities attending the Costa Rica Center in addition to Whitworth students, something the administration has experimented with in the past.
“Right now I’m on plan B,” Taylor said. “Plan A was the original plan, plan C was to sell the center and divest and reinvest elsewhere, plan B is to find an institutional partner or find a new way of running this center that makes it more financially sustainable.”
The 2015 Jan Term will include an Introduction to Environmental Science course instructed by Grant Casady, assistant professor of biology. Interest in the Jan Term 2015 program is high; 15 high school seniors who have been admitted to Whitworth have already applied for the program, Scott said.
The Costa Rica Center is in its fourth year of operations. An average of 100 students attend the center each year.
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