- Lincoln College, a small, private nonprofit institution based in central Illinois, will close in May, citing a recent cyberattack and pandemic-induced challenges that worsened its financial position.
- The 157-year-old college said it pursued fundraising efforts, employee consolidation and the sale of assets to try to stabilize its finances, without success.
- It will formally shut down May 13. All employees will be laid off by that date. Officials did not announce arrangements for current students to complete their studies at another institution but said they're planning an on-campus fair in April for them to meet with other colleges.
The pandemic stretched many colleges' finances, but among those hit hardest were small, private nonprofit institutions.
Such was the case at Bloomfield College, a private nonprofit in New Jersey that was drowning financially until a nearby institution, Montclair State University, pledged to support it as the two work out a merger deal. Bloomfield refers to itself as the only four-year predominantly Black, Hispanic- and minority-serving institution in the state.
At Lincoln College, which is considered a predominantly Black institution, around two-thirds of students belong to racial or ethnic minority groups, and more than 40% are first-generation.
The college experienced record enrollment in the fall of 2019, officials said. Federal data from fall 2019 shows more than 1,000 students enrolled. But as the coronavirus began to spread, the pandemic curtailed fundraising and campus life.
"The economic burdens initiated by the pandemic required large investments in technology and campus safety measures, as well as a significant drop in enrollment with students choosing to postpone college or take a leave of absence, which impacted the institution's financial position," a statement posted to Lincoln's website reads.
Then, in December, the college fell victim to a cyberattack that rendered inoperable its systems required for recruitment, retention and fundraising. No personal information was exposed, officials said. But it left "an unclear picture" of fall 2022 enrollment projections.
The college restored those systems in March. However, by then projections suggested significant enrollment shortfalls that could only be made up by "a transformational donation or partnership" to keep the institution afloat.
"Lincoln College has been serving students from across the globe for more than 157 years," David Gerlach, its president, said in a statement. “The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense."
Students who don't finish their degrees by the end of the spring term will need to do so elsewhere. Some colleges arrange teach-outs with other institutions when they close, but no such partnership has been announced for Lincoln.
College officials have not shared what institution will handle requests for transcripts and other records once it shuts down.
Lincoln will provide employees with two months of severance pay if they meet certain requirements and stay on through the closure date of May 13.
Meanwhile, Lincoln Christian University, a private institution a couple of miles away, is also pursuing austerity measures. It is ending almost all of its undergraduate programs and athletics, may reduce the size of the campus, and is homing in on graduate programs and its seminary.