National American University

National American University, the Rapid City-based for-profit college, has announced it will no longer be accepting new students in a quarter of its academic programs and that it plans to lay off employees as part of a company-wide mission to regain profitability.

"In alignment with its new strategic plan, National American University suspended new student enrollment in 34 of its 128 programs effective November 1, 2018," the company said in a statement emailed to the Journal by CEO Ronald Shape.

Noting that NAU will continue serving students already enrolled in those programs, the statement concluded by saying, "To accelerate its strategic shift to online academic programs and to gain greater efficiencies through the centralization of its student-facing services, the Company is implementing appropriate staff reductions and other personnel actions."

The layoffs come on the heels of a company fiscal report showing a $5 million loss for the first fiscal quarter of 2019. Bright spots included a boost in enrollment in both its new military and Canada divisions and a 34 percent increase in online education programs. 

The company declined to provide specifics on the number of employees who would lose their jobs and the types of academic programs that will be soon be ceasing operations.

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"Sorry, but we have not disclosed any detail around the specific programs," Shape said in the email to the Journal.

In an SEC report filed in September, NAU posted an operating loss of $11.5 million and reported a 30 percent drop in enrollment across 24 campuses in 10 states since 2016. The report noted that the college's target demographic — working adults — are no longer taking advantage of higher learning in an economically strong time in which unemployment levels have dropped to near-record lows.

NAU opened in 1941 as National College of Business and operated as a one-year secretarial school in downtown Rapid City. While enjoying an enrollment of nearly 8,000 students within its various physical and online classes earlier this decade, the school has faced increased regulatory burden due to the high number of students who defaulted on federal student loans post-graduation.

By the close of the day Friday, NAU was trading at 60 cents a share, less than half of its value a year ago.

Contact Christopher Vondracek at Christopher.Vondracek@rapidcityjournal.com.

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