Lincoln College, a predominantly Black institution located in Illinois, failed to raise millions of dollars to help it recover from low student enrollment during the coronavirus pandemic. The school was also hit by a cyberattack, from which it has not recovered, and that one-two combination resulted in school officials announcing the closure of the campus earlier this month.
President David Gerlach officially announced the closure after a GoFundMe and a search for an angel investor failed to yield enough funds to keep the institution open. It needed $50 million to continue operations after a ransomeware attack and the pandemic-induced drop in enrollment.
The school’s last official day was Friday, May 13.
The college is a predominantly Black institution, as designated by the U.S. Department of Education, and according to the Lincoln Heritage Museum, was the only college named for Abraham Lincoln while he was still living. It opened in 1865.
“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 2008 global financial crisis, and more, but this is different,” part of a statement posted to Lincoln College’s website read.
“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,” the statement continued.
The statement also singled out a cyberattack in December 2021 that “thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data, creating an unclear picture of Fall 2022 enrollment projections. All systems required for recruitment, retention, and fundraising efforts were inoperable.”
According to the statement, when the systems were restored in March 2022, there were “significant enrollment shortfalls, requiring a transformational donation or partnership to sustain Lincoln College beyond the current semester,” and, “Unfortunately, these efforts did not create long-term viability for Lincoln College in the face of the pandemic.”
As of summer 2021, Lincoln College had roughly 1,200 students.
Lincoln College held its final graduation about one week before it closed. School officials said they would work to help the remaining student body transfer to other colleges and universities to continue their studies.