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Culinary school closure is significant loss to North Miami

Johnson and Wales announces North Miami and Denver campuses won't enroll new students

Closing its North Miami campus, Johnson and Wales leaving a void
Closing its North Miami campus, Johnson and Wales leaving a void

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. – Like many, covid-19 changed Aaron Mohl’s senior year.

“We didn’t have senior prom. We didn’t have graduation,” Mohl said.

But he moved forward, focusing instead on his hospitality and culinary education at Johnson and Wales.

"That day was one of the happiest days of my life when I got accepted to Johnson and Wales."

Since the age of six, 18-year-old Mohl has been fascinated by the culinary world. Now he is dealing with another educational blow. The Johnson and Wales North Miami campus is closing its doors.

In an email, students were told:

“...the university will not be enrolling a new, incoming class for the fall of 2020 at the North Miami and Denver campuses...the North Miami and Denver campuses’ operations will officially end in summer of 2021.”

School officials said the fluctuating number of high school graduates, the increase of online education and diminishing need for physical classrooms are just some of the factors in their decision to close.

The pandemic also made them realize that they need to expand their academic offerings and the way those are delivered.

Scott Galvin, a North Miami council member said he was "stunned."

It was a shock for many in the community. In 1992, when Johnson and Wales opened, the campus was centered around the old North Miami General Hospital. The once depressed area is now a 24-acre campus in a prime spot.

“It’s been a shining jewel for North Miami for nearly 30 years,” Galvin said.

Tanya Wilson, North Miami planning and zoning director, said it was a major loss for the city. “It’s significant.”

North Miami’s planning, zoning and development director said the last time an analysis was done that the school’s economic impact was about $45 million, that they invested about $30 million in just construction projects, and there are more than 2,000 students and faculty who contribute to the local economy.

Galvin said he has reached out to Florida International University to gauge their interest in the property. Wilson said the city wants the large campus to remain vital, possibly turning into a medical sciences, research and technology mixed-use complex with workforce housing.

As for Mohl, it will be almost impossible for him to get into a school right now, so he’s going to take a year off, work and save money.

“It’s a lot to figure out right now,” Mohl said.

Officials at the school stated that “the leadership at the North Miami and Denver campuses have explored multiple options to increase enrollment, introduce new revenue streams, and seek financial contributions from supporters and alumni. Now that we are midway through the plan, it has become clear that in spite of all of their efforts, by the end of 2022, the North Miami and Denver campuses will not be able to achieve the goal to be self-sustaining. As a result of our extensive deliberations and analysis, we have collectively determined that JWU’s unique status as one university, with four geographically diverse on-the-ground campuses, is no longer viable in the rapidly changing landscape of higher education.”

Read the message from JWU’s Chancellor about the school’s new strategic direction.

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.