BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Thursday presents a sad moment for an institution of higher learning that has been on the Gulf Coast for 18 years, as it was the last day of classes for the Tulane University campus in Biloxi.
Students took their last final exam as part of Tulane’s School of Professional Advancement.
The campus has been in Biloxi since 2001 and at its current location at Edgewater Village for four years. This process hasn’t been easy for students or staff.
Closing Tulane hurts for everyone.
“Like I’ve been punched in the gut,” said media arts instructor Ronald Warr. “It hurts to see Tulane close. I’d be lying if I said anything else.”
For Warr, he’ll miss this campus for two good reasons.
“I had a great experience,” he said. “I had an awesome experience as a student and I liked it so much, I came back as an instructor.”
You may remember a year ago that Tulane officials announced the closing and stopped enrolling new students beginning the fall semester of 2018. Tulane officials said dwindling numbers of enrollment created the need to close the campus.
“Major panic mode,” student Amanda Beaugez said with a laugh. She can laugh now, because she made the deadline and will graduate this semester.
At the beginning of the 2018 fall semester, 92 students were enrolled. The largest enrollment was in 2011 with 205 students, but the school didn’t just close the doors and say goodbye to the students.
Since the announcement last year, the staff has been doing what it could to graduate as many students as possible.
“The community has been very supportive,” Beaugez said. “It’s really been backing us up especially after we found out we were closing. So, they’ve been pushing us the whole time.”
Other students have opted to continue with online classes, attend classes in New Orleans campus or take their credits and transfer to another institution.
The school support also made the difference for Natasha Evelyn, who needs just one more online course to graduate.
“It’s meant a lot,” she said. “It’s helped me to get what I was looking for - that motivation to keep going," she said.
“The prestigious name of Tulane but the convenience of being right here in our Biloxi community,” he said. “They surely don’t hand out degrees. Every paper you turn in is not a cake walk.”
In the end, it wasn’t just academic lessons to graduate Glen Farmer.
“Our instructors are also in the jobs that they teach,” he said. “So, it’s not just instructor to student, it was building relationships and stepping stones for further careers.”
The staff at the Biloxi campus has also been affected.
Some of the five full-time staff employed at the time of the announcement last year left soon afterward. Others decided to stay until the last day to help the students. All the professors are part-time adjunct.
The future of the building school occupies is also unsure.
Monte Luffey with Southeast Commercial Real Estate said that Tulane has a lease that goes through 2027.
Tulane officials in New Orleans said nothing has been decided yet but an option would be to sub-lease the property.