CHICAGO ( Associated Press) — A historically black college in central Illinois named after Abraham Lincoln and the year the former president was assassinated will close this week, months after a cyberattack that killed the coronavirus. The pandemic escalated the enrollment struggle.
Lincoln College, which saw record enrollment numbers in 2019, said in a news release that it scrambled to keep up with fundraising campaigns, consolidation of employee positions and exploring leasing options.
“Unfortunately, these efforts did not create long-term viability for Lincoln College in the face of a pandemic,” the school, which opened in 1865 in Lincoln, about 170 miles southwest of Chicago, said in the release.
Then, as COVID cases dropped and students returned to schools across the country, the college fell victim to a December 1 cyber attack. It omitted all the systems needed to recruit students, retain them, and raise funds for three months.
Lincoln’s President David Gerlach told the Chicago Tribune That the school paid a ransom of less than $100,000 after an attack which they said originated in Iran. But when systems were fully restored, the school, which had just over 1,000 students during the 2018–19 academic year, discovered a “significant enrollment shortfall” that required majors to remain open beyond the current semester. The scale would require donations or partnerships.
A GoFundMe campaign called Save Lincoln College was launched with a goal of raising $20 million, but as of this week, only $2,352 had been raised. And Gerlach told the Tribune that the school needs $50 million to stay open.
“The loss of history, career and a community of students and alumni is enormous,” Gerlach said in a statement. The school did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The school also announced that the Higher Education Commission has approved Teach Out/Transfer agreements with 21 colleges. The school organized a college fair last month to give students a chance to know where they want to transfer.