The business model fails the Minnesota Business Academy

Last summer, the St. Paul City Council voted to forgive a $750,000 loan to the Minnesota Business Academy, an experimental charter school that enjoyed the backing of many prominent politicians and business people. At the time, there was considerable skepticism voiced over the bail out. The school--which aimed to immerse its "associates" in the business culture--had struggled financially from its inception six years ago, largely because of the more than $9 million it expended on start up costs.

After the City Council came to the rescue, MBA executive director Jerry Neff expressed optimism about the future, telling worried parents, "We're here to stay." Some former students, staffers and others affiliated with the school were far less sanguine about the prospects. "I would not recommend this school to anyone," former MBA board chair Kathy Mirsch told City Pages at the time. "I think it's living on borrowed time."

As it turned out, Mirsch had the better crystal ball. Last night, the MBA board voted to shutter the operation at the end of the current school year. The main reason: the school could not consistently enroll enough students. Executive director Neff attributed the enrollment woes in part to media coverage of the MBA's financial difficulties.