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Education Desk

Lincoln College to close permanently on May 13

Lincoln College
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Lincoln College, which has its main campus in Lincoln and a satellite location in Normal, announced Wednesday it's closing permanently at the end of the spring semester.

Lincoln College President David Gerlach told employees in an email that the more than 157-year-old institution named after Abraham Lincoln will close its doors for good on May 13.

Lincoln College is a recognized as a predominantly Black institution by the U.S. Department of Education. In its most recent year, the college enrolled around 1,000 students at an average tuition cost of around $21,000 per year, according to the department. The College said it is working to find “teach out” options for all students.

A college spokesperson has not yet responded to a WGLT request about how many employees will be affected by the closure.

Gerlach, president since 2015, said the COVID-19 pandemic and a Dec. 19 cyberattack that caused a system outage for more than a month prevented the school from making enough money to continue operations.

A special committee studied enrollment projections for the Fall 2022 semester and found them "woefully short of what is needed to sustain Lincoln College," he wrote.

"Therefore, barring a significant miracle of a very large transformational donation or merger, Lincoln College will close after the current semester or term ends (May 13)," Gerlach said. "I am very sad. I know many of you have felt the weight of this possibility for years. I am certain this news is difficult for you to hear."

All of the college's employees are set to be laid off May 13, according to Gerlach's email. Employees who meet a specific criteria for severance will receive two months' worth of pay. Included in a FAQ page for employees was a note that all college credit cards and user accounts with the college would be closed on that day as well.

Because the Higher Learning Commission regionally accredited Lincoln College, credits will remain valid after closure, according to the college's FAQ page, and other regionally accredited institutions will accept them for transfer.

Lincoln College said it's still in the process of deciding which custodial service will store student records; those can be ordered online until May 13.

Gerlach noted in his email that Lincoln College's closure follows some successes at the college in recent years. Among them was a "30% increase in enrollment and housing beyond capacity" after creating a dozen new undergraduate programs and two master's degrees.

"Then COVID hit. COVID affected the type of students that we serve. College enrollment rates nationally declined dramatically," he said.

On Dec. 19, Gerlach said a cyberattack caused "a system outage for over a month and a half and delayed the spring semester start. This incident made it impossible to access needed information, thus impacting our ability to project and recruit for the Fall 2022 enrollment."

Lincoln College was established in 1865 after the Illinois General Assembly issued a charter for the school.

The Normal location of the college was established in 1979.
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