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Union Institute misses another payday. Now the college's future could be in jeopardy

Union Institute & University headquarters in Walnut Hills
Zack Carreon
Union Institute & University headquarters in Walnut Hills.

Employees at Union Institute & University in Walnut Hills say the school failed to pay them on time this past Friday. The missed payday is one of many the university's employees have had over the past several months.

According to emails shared by employees with WVXU in April, President Karen Schuster Webb said Union Institute didn't have enough money to make payroll, and everyone would have to wait until the school received federal grants and loans before they could be fully paid.

Employees say they did eventually receive the pay they were owed in recent weeks and many who were not paid last Friday got their money this Tuesday, but some say they're still waiting on a paycheck.

One part-time faculty member who spoke with WVXU anonymously said they had been promised their paycheck on Wednesday but had still not gotten paid as of Thursday.

Get caught up: Union Institute & University hasn't paid its employees in nearly a month

The university's financial situation and lack of consistent communication have left some workers jaded. Since April, employees who spoke with WVXU say many workers have resigned, leaving some departments with minimal staff.

Those who are still there say Union Institute's leadership has not been transparent with them about the school's ability to make payroll, sometimes sending emails on payday letting employees know why they didn't get paid.

Accreditation at risk

In previous emails to staff, school leadership has insisted Union Institute will not close, but the ongoing financial issues could put the institution's accredited status at risk.

A loss of accreditation can harm a university's reputation, and students who are not attending accredited institutions can encounter issues with potential employers, licensing boards, and other colleges if they wish to transfer. Additionally, a school losing accreditation prevents its students from receiving federal financial aid.

Union Institute's accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, told WVXU this week that it takes a college's finances into consideration during its accreditation process and a change in a school's financial status could trigger additional monitoring and visits from the commission to make sure the institution is in compliance.

Typically, institutions are subject to comprehensive evaluations once every 10 years but may be asked to provide interim reports or can be subject to additional reviews.

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Union Institute's last comprehensive evaluation was in 2017 and their next one is scheduled for 2026-2027, but the Higher Learning Commission is now planning an upcoming visit with Union Institute to go over its finances.

If a school is found to be non-compliant, it could be subject to sanctions or lose its accredited status entirely.

A date for the visit with Union Institute has not yet been set according to HLC, but once the visit is completed, a decision on the school's status is usually made in the following weeks.

Union Institute's leadership has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.