LINCOLN, Ill. (WMBD) — Lincoln College will permanently close effective May 13, 2022, unless they receive a large gift.

The Board of Trustees has voted to end all academic programming at the end of the spring semester.

The college experienced record-breaking student enrollment in Fall 2019, with residence halls at maximum capacity. Unfortunately, the pandemic impacted recruitment and fundraising efforts, sporting events, and all campus life activities.

“Lincoln College has been serving students from across the globe for more than 157 years. The loss of history, careers and a community of students and alumni is immense. The institution has worked tirelessly to strengthen its financial position through fundraising campaigns, selling assets, consolidating employee positions, and exploring alternatives for the leased building in Normal. Unfortunately, these efforts did not create long-term viability for Lincoln College in the face of the pandemic. Lincoln College encourages individuals to review the FAQ documents on the Lincoln College website for more information regarding the closure process. Academic support and transitional services will be available to students through the remainder of the semester. Though we are experiencing undeniable grief and sadness, we find comfort in knowing Lincoln College has served generations of alumni who have undoubtedly impacted our world.”

David Gerlach, President of Lincoln College

The economic hardship caused 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.

Furthermore, Lincoln College was a victim of 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.

Once fully restored in March 2022, the projections displayed significant enrollment shortfalls, requiring a transformational donation or partnership to sustain Lincoln College beyond the current semester.

Now, more than 500 students and 200 employees will be without a job at the end of May. Gerlach said it’s a devastating loss.

“When students go away to college, certainly you want the campus community to embrace them,” said Gerlach. “For 157 years, our employees have embraced the students that have attended, and so, very sad day today and sharing the news with the employees and then very sad in sharing with the students.”

He said he could not give a specific total, but that $20 million would be a great start for a gift to possibly keep the school open.

State Senator Sally Turner (R-Beason) and State Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield) issued a joint statement on Lincoln College’s sudden closure announcement.

“Today’s unexpected and sudden closure announcement is devastating news for our local community. We both have had close family and friends who attended and graduated from Lincoln College, so we know just how special Lincoln is to its students and alumni. For more than 150 years, the namesake college of our 16th President has served as a higher educational pillar for central Illinois. It is painful to think that this historic institution will no longer be a part of our region. Our hearts go out to all of the lives that have been abruptly disrupted by this announcement. We promise to do everything within our power to help with the transition process for the students, faculty members, and staff impacted by the closure.”

Sen. Turner and Rep. Butler

To donate to the school, click here.