MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa — Business owners in Mount Pleasant are wondering what will happen to their own businesses and the town's economy after Iowa Wesleyan University announced it would close at the end of the school year.
The university, which has been educating students for 181 years, will close on May 31 at the end of the academic year, citing increased operating costs due to inflation, changing enrollment trends, a "significant drop" in philanthropic giving and the "rejection of a proposal for federal COVID funding by Governor Reynolds."
There are currently 878 students enrolled at the school.
"It's definitely going to affect our customer base," said Sami Davis, the co-owner of Tres Tacos Mas Taqueria. "Especially, like the football players really like food. They would come in here and eat because they were starving and we serve pretty large burritos."
She and her husband, Luke, only opened the taqueria two years ago. They were hoping to start hiring college students.
"That was part of our business plan to get some reoccurring college students," Luke Davis said. "And it's just not gonna happen now because they're leaving... We're gonna have to change our strategy a little bit and figure out how to make up for the kids that we're going to be coming in on a regular basis for the next 10 years."
Down the street, the co-owner of Main St. Pizza said about 10-20% of its customer base is university students.
"The Iowa Wesleyan baseball team played twice this week," Roger Beckman said. "So we served not quite 80 pizzas in two days to them."
Main St. Pizza has been open for 32 years in Mount Pleasant and has seen generations of students come and go as well as staff and coaches leave and come back to work at Iowa Wesleyan.
"There will be an impact that's for sure, so we'll just attempt to make it up somewhere else where we can," Beckman said.
"The town economy, it's gonna hurt," Luke Davis said. "You have all that money that's leaving Mount Pleasant."
Sami Davis said morale in the town has been low the last few days since the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to close down the university.
"This is just another loss that's happening," Sami Davis said. "It's like we haven't caught a break at all from 2020 on. Stuff keeps happening and this is just another sad thing to add to the list that we all have to figure out how to deal with."
Her family moved to Mount Pleasant from Texas so her sisters could go to school there. She ended up meeting her husband in town. Her sister also met her husband at Iowa Wesleyan.
"This school has literally brought a lot of people in here and that's just not going to happen anymore," she said.
Beckman is also sad about the 181 years of history the university has that will be lost. The United States Department of Agriculture will take over responsibility of the campus buildings and he hopes the department will find something to fill it with.
"Mount Pleasant's got a lot of history and we've been through a lot of hiccups, so hopefully we'll survive another one," Beckman said.
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