OAKLAND -- A week after seven people were shot to death at tiny Oikos University, its president said Tuesday that the school will need help to survive.
Just minutes after promising a memorial service crowd that Oikos would "unquestionably continue," the school's president, Jongin Kim, struck a less confident chord about the school's future in an exclusive interview with this newspaper.
In a small conference room steps from where six nursing students and a receptionist were shot to death last week, the president said he worried whether Oikos will survive the tragedy.
Most of the university's income comes from tuition, so last week's shooting deaths -- which introduced Oikos to most of the world -- could have a devastating effect if students no longer apply.
"Bad publicity is not good," said Kim.
"I need help, lots of help," Kim said in Korean, which was translated by his longtime friend, Jae Lee, a Castro Valley pastor. "I need lots of encouragement."
Classes have been canceled indefinitely, and Oikos has not announced when it will resume, but university leaders said they likely will be held temporarily at Patten University in Oakland or Unitek College in Fremont to avoid further traumatizing students.
Officials at both those schools said Tuesday they had only brief conversations with Oikos leaders.
"We would like to have the class continue," said Jae Hoon Moon, Oikos academic director. "However, a lot of the
The school has made English- and Korean-speaking counselors available to its students.
Even before the fatal attack, Oikos University's challenges were daunting.
The single-building school shares its industrial-park facility with a massage parlor where police have conducted stings. It enrolls about 100 students in nursing, music and religion programs.
State regulators have expressed concern about Oikos graduates' low passing rates on vocational nursing exams -- just 41 percent last year, among the state's lowest marks. Other programs offered by the nonprofit school are not accredited.
University leaders said Tuesday its latest graduates' passing rates had risen to 75 percent, higher than the state average. But a spokesman for the agency that regulates nurses quickly set aside the claim.
That number pertained to four tests taken at the end of 2011 and it was included in the much lower annual total, said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs. If the school does not raise its annual numbers to 65 percent or higher within the next year or two, he said, it will lose its nursing license. "The last quarter (of the year) really means nothing," Heimerich said.
Oikos is pursuing accreditation through the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, which would allow the school's students to use federal loans and scholarships to defray tuition costs. But that accreditation is not guaranteed, said T. Paul Boatner, the organization's president, and Oikos still has about a year and a half before the association makes its decision.
Among the questions Oikos will need to answer for the association: Can it prevent violence on its campus?
"At some point, they're going to have to address our standards for security and student safety," Boatner said.
Oikos is one of a handful of heavily Christian colleges that recruit primarily from South Korea. Such faith-based, Korean-language colleges can help ease the stress of immigration to the United States, experts said.
But the often unaccredited schools carry distinct risks, said Won Lee, a religion professor at Calvin College in Michigan.
"Unfortunately, some of these schools have become their own kingdoms, in a sense," said Lee, himself a Christian immigrant from South Korea. "There is no accountability. That's why sometimes these schools tend to become ghettoized."