Lincoln College, a historically black private school in Illinois founded in 1865, announced it would close on Friday following setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic and ransomware attack.
“Lincoln College has survived many difficult and challenging times—the economic crisis of 1887, a major campus fire in 1912, the Spanish flu of 1918, the Great Depression, World War II, the global financial crisis of 2008, and more, but it is Different,” the university said in a statement posted on its website. “Lincoln College needs help to survive.”
The 157-year-old college located in Lincoln has approximately 530 full-time students and 300 employees. Students who didn’t graduate this year are getting help to transfer to other schools.
Freshman Alexa Rad told The Chicago Tribune that she was shocked when the students were informed of the terrible news in late March.
“How could the college that survived the Great Depression and the Spanish Flu topple over due to COVID and cyberattacks?” Rudd said. “It didn’t make any sense.”
Enrollment was flat for the 2020 and 2021 school years and is forecast to get no better in 2022, college president David Gerlach told Fox 32 Chicago in early April.
Gerlach said that even then he expected a “big, wondrous donation” that would save the school. He later told the Chicago Tribune that the required amount was $50 million.
But that miracle never came, despite the university’s efforts, including a GoFundMe page created on March 31 that raised only $2,252 out of a $20 million goal.
While Lincoln College said it enrolled “record-breaking” numbers of students in the fall of 2019, the pandemic had a devastating effect on nearly every aspect of the university, from recruitment to sporting events. In addition, many students chose to postpone their enrollment, causing further damage to the university’s finances.
Compounding the problems was a December ransomware attack that the college called “a bleak picture of Fall 2022 enrollment projections” and inefficient systems related to student recruitment, retention and fundraising.
“Once fully restored in March 2022, projections demonstrated a significant enrollment shortfall, requiring transformational donations or partnerships to maintain Lincoln College beyond the current semester,” the college said.
Gerlach told The Chicago Tribune that the university paid less than $100,000 to gain access to its system.