The Tartan

Closing of college left students struggling

By Brandon Ahne, Staff Writer

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The towering steeples of the aged chapel reflect across the pond in a beautifully peaceful manner. On this day, however, peace would be hard to come by on the campus of Saint Joseph’s College. With rumors spreading over the past weeks regarding the future of the school, word had officially come that its doors would soon be closing. Lexi Vargas, a freshman student athlete attending SJC at the time, recalls the disbelief felt across campus by all of its students.

“It was something we felt coming, but it didn’t feel real at the same time,” Vargas explained. “It was a very eerie atmosphere on campus.”

Saint Joseph’s College was founded in 1889, and is located in the small town of Rensselaer, Indiana. It was home to around 1,100 students including 18 Division II athletic teams. According to WNDU, it was announced on February 3rd that the school would suspend all academic activities once it had finished the semester.

More than $100 million in debt, Saint Joseph’s was faced with the many challenges of being a smaller college and was unable to recover. This outcome left more than 200 employees without a job and hundreds of students scrambling to find a new school.

One of the students affected was Vargas, who believed she had found the perfect fit. She was relieved when she finally made the decision of where she thought she’d be spending the next four years of her life. She talked of falling in love with the campus and its atmosphere.

The school also provided her with great opportunities. She played center midfield on its women’s soccer team, with substantial scholarships both athletically and academically. Although the scholarships were important, it was the relationships Vargas made that she treasured most.

“I really enjoyed my time there. I made great friends from all over the world that I never would have met if it weren’t for St Joe’s. All of the freshman soccer players lived in the same dorm, and we all became very close,” Vargas said. “As time started to dwindle down, I realized it wasn’t the buildings or the actual school that made the place what it was. It was the people, the professors, and the coaches that offered the most.”

Once the news became official, Vargas knew she had to start looking towards the future, but things were not exactly easy. “The stress level was incredibly high. I had to continue school, yet somehow find a new college all at the same time.” Many problems began arising for her as she looked for possible transfer options.

At Saint Joseph’s, the curriculum consists of a core program that is specific to the school. This replaces the usual Gen Eds at most other colleges that easily transfer. Vargas explained that it was not as difficult for her as it could have been because she was only a freshman. But for older students at the school who had taken a majority of these core classes, transferring credits became a huge problem.

Being a student athlete, things became even more complicated for Vargas. The national signing day for incoming freshman athletes was also in the beginning of February, so the majority of spots on collegiate athletic teams had already been filled. Vargas worried about finding a place to continue playing soccer. And if she did find a school, whether or not there would be any scholarship money left to offer.

After much research, emailing to coaches, and plenty of stress, worry, and anxiety, Vargas finally made the decision to transfer to Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Il.

“I always was interested in the school even before St. Joe’s because it was close to home, a very pretty campus, and because of the academics,” Vargas said. “So I emailed the coach, and he was super nice about everything.”

Vargas decided to take a visit and ended up falling in love with the campus. She also met with the girls’ soccer team and made an instant connection.

Today, Vargas is two months into her first semester at her new school and is having a great time. But she will always remember and cherish the year she spent at Saint Joseph’s College.

“You change as much as you do in high school, as you do in one year of college. I learned so much, and it had such an impact on my life.”

Since St. Joe’s mascot was a puma, Vargas and five of her closest friends from the soccer team decided to get matching tattoos of paw prints. Vargas said it helps to remind them that no matter where they go in life, they will always be connected.

As for the difficulties she went through, Vargas regrets nothing about her decision to go to Saint Joseph’s and looks at it from a positive perspective.

“I miss everyone from St. Joe’s, but I think everything happens for a reason. Whatever is meant to be will be, and I’m excited for what Lake Forrest has to offer.”










1 Comment

One Response to “Closing of college left students struggling”

  1. Guest on October 12th, 2017 11:07 am

    This is a very interesting piece! I can’t imagine what I’d do if this happened to me and I needed to find a new college. Really well written.


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Closing of college left students struggling