After 157 years, HBCU Lincoln College closing following enrollment drop and ransomware attack 

President David Gerlach said of the Illinois school's closing Friday, "The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense."

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Lincoln College will close this week after 157 years. The HBCU, located in Illinois, failed to raise millions of dollars to help it recover from low student enrollment during the coronavirus pandemic and was also hit by a cyberattack, from which it has not recovered. 

According to The New York Times, college president David Gerlach said of its closing this Friday, “The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense.”

Lincoln College, a historically black university in Lincoln, Illinois, is closing its doors as of Friday. (Photo: PRNewsfoto/Lincoln College)

University officials said in a statement that Lincoln “experienced record-breaking student enrollment in Fall 2019, with residence halls at maximum capacity. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically impacted recruitment and fundraising efforts, sporting events, and all campus life activities.” 

The statement went on to say that “economic burdens initiated by the pandemic required large investments in technology and campus safety measures.” It further cited “a significant drop in enrollment with students choosing to postpone college or take a leave of absence, which impacted the institution’s financial position.”

Lincoln College was founded in 1865 by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and named after Abraham Lincoln, who was from Illinois. The school proudly “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,” officials say. Its board of trustees voted to end all academic programming as of May 13, the end of the spring semester. 

The New York Times report notes that 1,043 schools in America — 26 of them colleges — were the victims of ransomware attacks, which “touches almost every part of the academic enterprise,” said Henry Stoever, president and chief executive of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. He told The Times that losing donor data and other projections can be devastating. 

“Though we are experiencing undeniable grief and sadness,” the statement from Lincoln concluded, “we find comfort in knowing Lincoln College has served generations of alumni who have undoubtedly impacted our world.”

In a Facebook post, associate professor Annette Roter consoled her students and Lincoln College alumni last month, writing that a foundation has come forward to help students needing assistance with the transition.

“I believe,” Roter wrote, “if we had more time, that we would have been able to have found someone but, this is all out of our control.” Through the process, she noted, Lincoln students “have had an incredible learning experience about leadership, perseverance, and resilience.” 

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