By editorial board • 

Linfield’s bold move to buy campus promises big payoff

Linfield College has been striving for years to augment an endowment dwarfed by those of private liberal arts peer institutions. So, what moved it to part with $14.5 million of its approximately $114 million nest egg last week to acquire a new campus for its Portland nursing program?

For starters, the waiting list at its operation on Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital grounds was expanding exponentially, representing an ever growing missed opportunity. What’s more, the school’s lease on two buildings of a combined 50,000 square feet was set to expire in 2020, and looking elsewhere in a sizzling market was daunting.

About 10,000 more Americans turn 65 every day, spurring demand for health care, including both nurses and nursing professors, creating a retirement drain at the worst possible time.

As a result, Oregon figures to be 6,000 nurses short by 2015. Students are rushing to fill the vacuum, but nursing schools need new capacity to accommodate them.
At the same time, cost concerns are making community and state college options more attractive for students who might otherwise head to Linfield’s McMinnville campus,. Heightened tensions are limiting the flow of international students. As a result, the school is already suffering from two abnormally small classes in a row.

Linfield’s registered nursing B.A. program runs two years. It’s designed for students who’ve already completed two years of liberal arts studies at a two- or four-year school, with a large percentage choosing Linfield’s McMinnville campus. The local option has proven so popular that Portland nursing grads accounted for 44 percent of Linfield’s 2018 graduating class.

Facing competition, the college paid more than the $14.2 million asking price for its new Portland locations — the 10-building, 23-acre campus of the University of Western States, which specializes in chiropractic and sports medicine. 

Western is planning to more than double its existing 71,000 square feet on a new site elsewhere. Linfield aims to take possession in 2020, just as its lease with Good Samaritan is expiring.

Linfield’s new president, Miles Davis, called the acquisition a “once-in-a-century opportunity,” filling new seats simultaneously in both Portland and McMinnville.
American nursing schools are currently turning away about 65,000 students a year — enough to fill every nursing slot in Oregon. So the new capacity taps into a rich employment vein for grads.

That made it an offer Linfield simply couldn’t refuse, even if it meant parting with a substantial number of endowment dollars.

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