The rector of Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer has discussed key milestones he is aiming for the suspended institution to reach in the new year. In an open letter on Facebook, Barry Fischer said he hopes 2018 will include a bank settlement on SJC's debt and a pathway for the school to re-emerge. "Let us unite around the hope that the phoenix will rise from the ashes," he said, inviting contributions and prayers.

Fischer's year-end message also tallied steps taken since operations were suspended at St. Joe May 5, including:

  • Successful efforts by faculty and staff before closing to help students graduate. He adds a "great majority" of students not in line to graduate "were able to continue in other institutions."
  • Severance packages for all professors and employees, Fischer said, were approved and released in September through work among Chief Financial Officer Spencer Conroy, SJC's attorney, the attorney general and individual donors who worked to cover those expenses through endowment funds.

The Phoenix Project Team, as the forward-minded group seeking to resurrect the college is called, continues to work on how a new St. Joe could be structured. Fischer said:

The Team has vetted many different proposals that have come across our desk and others that we have sought out. We are researching and working to find a pathway for the new SJC that is faithful to our mission and Catholic identity, is sustainable, meets the challenges facing higher education across the country, and responds to the needs of the student population we wish to serve. We are seeking partnerships to assure that we will have accreditation. We've reached out and discussed possibilities with several colleges and universities and have had numerous discussions with the local community including agricultural, business and corporate leaders, economic development entities, the chamber of commerce and rotary club, and diverse Latino populations in the Diocese.

When Fischer first came on board at the end of May, he said a new St. Joe could reopen as early as August of 2018, but cautioned: "It may take longer, but that we won't know until we have examined different possibilities for what Saint Joseph's might look like when we do come back."