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Predominantly Black Lincoln College to close after 157 years

Predominantly Black Lincoln College to close after 157 years
Lincoln College, in Lincoln, Ill., was forced to close due to financial problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and a ransomware attack. File Photo by Dave Hitchborne/Lincoln College/Wikimedia Commons

May 9 (UPI) -- Lincoln College, a 157-year-old, predominantly Black college in central Illinois, announced Monday it will permanently close at the end of the week due to financial difficulties.

Despite record enrollment in 2019, costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and a recent ransomware cyberattack have made it financially impossible to continue, officials announced in a message on the school's website.

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As a result, Lincoln College's board of trustees has voted to cease all academic programming at the end of the spring semester on Friday and has notified the Illinois Department of Higher Education and Higher Learning Commission of its permanent closure.

"Lincoln College has been serving students from across the globe for more than 157 years," college president David Gerlach said in the message. "The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense."

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The college reported a total undergraduate enrollment of 905 students in Fall 2020, when it was coping with "dramatically impacted recruitment and fundraising efforts" due to the pandemic.

"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," officials said.

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The situation was complicated by a ransomware attack in December in which hackers disrupted admissions activities and blocked access to all institutional data. As a result, school officials say they were unable to generate a clear picture of Fall 2022 enrollment estimates.

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When the computer systems were finally restored in March, "the projections displayed significant enrollment shortfalls, requiring a transformational donation or partnership to sustain Lincoln College beyond the current semester."

Despite their best efforts to raise funds, sell assets and consolidate employee positions, school officials said they could not "create long-term viability for Lincoln College in the face of the pandemic."

The college was founded in 1865 while its namesake, President Abraham Lincoln, was still alive and in office. It has been designated as a Predominantly Black Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.

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It is one of only seven U.S. schools with a predominantly Black student population in a rural area, WICS-TV, Springfield, Ill., reported.

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