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Bacone College spared from auction, students future's are uncertain

Posted at 4:51 PM, Dec 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-14 18:52:39-05

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Mere hours before the scheduled auction of Bacone College, the Utah HVAC company suing the school asked for the sale to be paused.

Bacone owes Midgley-Huber Energy Concepts approximately $1.5 million, for not paying off contracted work completed in 2020. Bacone Interim President Nicky Michael, who inherited the troubling financial situation, said they are relieved and grateful to have more time to sort out the debt.

"Their exact quote was we are recalling the auction for now," said Michael. "There’s lot that can be read into that. We're hoping that we actually are able to pay that debt before that for now happens were working as hard as we can."

The attorney for the company who previously spoke with 2 News declined to comment on the sale, but President Chris Oberle said his company asked for the sale to be halted.

It is unclear why they asked for the auction to be postponed, or if MHEC will pursue the debt in the future.

Bacone is welcoming back seniors for their spring semester to get them graduated, but for those not as close to finishing their education it won't be as simple. They can either attend a school of their choosing to finish out their college career or transfer to one of the three schools Bacone made teaching agreements with - Southern Nazarene University, Mid-American Christian University and Ottowa University.

In the wake of the changes for the remainder of the school year, 45 professors were laid off. Michaels is one of four remaining, and those four are covering multiple areas to keep up operations.

"They have been through thick and thin with us, none of our students rarely ever complain about our education and that’s because we have such amazing professors that work one on one with so many of the students," said Michael. "So to lay them off after the dedication they have shown for the students was very very heartwrenching and heartbreaking to us."

Although she is within a semester of graduation, senior Allison Primeaux is not sure she wants to return to the campus. Primeaux said it's been a stressful year, and she feels she may be better supported elsewhere.

"I did not start at Bacone, but this is my third year here so honestly it does hurt," said Primeaux. "Like I said, I wanted to play softball and I wanted to graduate from Bacone because my dad did as well, and all my friends were there. So its been hard."
Primeaux is concerned that her credits will not fully transfer, and is not eager at the prospect of transferring with one semester left. Michael said it is heartbreaking to have to send students and professors away from a place they call home.

"What I would like to say is they had everything they needed here," said Michael. "Instead what we have to say is ‘yeah they learned to do. They learned to do in spite of, they learned to do without,’ and that is not how we should see our students in education."

Michael said they are working diligently to be able to pay off the debt and work towards welcoming students back in the years to come. All options are on the table to generate revenue - renting out buildings, selling some of the land, applying for loans and asking alumni for support.

She is grateful to have more time to right the situation.

"I could breathe a little easier knowing that the land and the buildings weren’t gonna go," said Michael. "There’s seven historical buildings on this site, so there’s more to it than just the students. There’s the history of it."

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