Capella President Quits After 4-Month Stint

Larry Isaak, who was just named president of Capella University in August, is leaving to "pursue other opportunities."

After just four months serving as president of Capella University, Larry Isaak has stepped down from his post to “pursue other opportunities,” the university announced Friday.

Deb Bushway, who has served as Capella's provost and vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer, has been named interim president.

Capella representative Mike Buttry, who was reached by phone on Friday afternoon, would not comment further on Isaak's departure.

“While we are disappointed in Larry's decision to leave, we are extremely excited to announce Deb Bushway as interim president,” Marcia Ballinger, chair of Capella's board of directors, said in a statement.

Bushway joined Capella in 2007 after 17 years with Metropolitan State University. She earned her master of science in psychology and PhD in psychology from Iowa State University.

Isaak took over as president in November, replacing Mike Offerman, who had served as the university's interim president since March 2010 and will now take over as chancellor.

The last permanent president, Christopher Cassirer, left earlier in 2010 due to unspecified personal reasons but had plans to continue special projects with the university.

Last month, Capella announced that it was cutting 125 positions, or about 8 percent of employees, from its non-faculty work force.

“This is an opportunity to reduce areas where we have excess capacity due to declining enrollment and take a look at areas where we could operate in a more streamlined fashion,” Buttry told Twin Cities Business at the time of the announcement.

At that same time, Capella announced positive results for its fourth quarter and full year, but the university faces uncertainty in light of proposed U.S. Department of Education regulations that would require it to better prepare students for employment or risk losing access to federal loan programs for financial aid for students.

Part of the proposed regulations require schools to demonstrate that they ready students for “gainful employment”-a comparison of the debt students incur and their incomes after program completion, and the rate at which all enrollees repay their loans on time.

In October, the Department of Education outlined its proposed rules. In August, Capella contested a government report that said that only 40 percent of the school's former students are repaying loans-a statistic that could prevent it from receiving federal funds.

Although Capella's new enrollment grew 24.4 percent in 2010, students now seem to be displaying concern about the possibility of losing access to financial aid: New enrollment growth decreased 10.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

On November 1, following the release of the Department of Education's proposed rules, Capella's stock plummeted to close at $53.94-down $13.24, or nearly 20 percent, from the previous day's closing price.

The company's stock closed at $56.50 on Friday, down nearly 2 percent from Thursday.

Capella employs roughly 1,800 and is among Minnesota's 60-largest public companies based on revenue.