Lincoln College closes today. Many students move on; town faces uncertainty 

Lincoln College attracted students from around the state, country and world to the town of 13,500.

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After 157 years historic Lincoln College closes its doors today, forcing students to look elsewhere for an education and leaving the town without a major employer, The Chicago Tribune has reported. 

“Lincoln felt like a home to me,” Lincoln College junior-to-be Blake Weibe, told The Tribune by phone from El Dorado, Kansas, his hometown. “In such a short time I made a lot of good friends. To see everyone separated, it’s hard. It really is.”

Last week in a statement released by the college, theGrio has previously reported, 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 a pandemic-induced drop in enrollment.

Lincoln College, a majority-Black college in Lincoln, Illinois, is closing its doors. (Photo: PRNewsfoto/Lincoln College)

Weibe, like many Lincoln students, is transferring to another school,” according to The Tribune. Others, like Lincoln resident Alexa Redd, are still deciding. Now a sophomore, she has several choices and will do campus visits this summer to make a final decision.

Yet, Redd is concerned about what the closure will mean for the town’s economic outlook, since it is a major employer. Diversity is also a concern because the college attracted students from around the state, country and world to the town of 13,500.

“Lincoln College is the one thing people had that wasn’t Lincoln-ized,” she said. “Now that it’s gone, the whole town is not going where it needs to go.”

Mayor Tracy Welch told The Tribune that it is too soon to predict what impact the loss of a second college will have on the town. Recently, Lincoln Christian University disclosed plans that will essentially shutter it.

“I’m optimistic that those who were employed will be able to find other jobs,” he said. “The one thing we can’t replace is the student population and their patronizing of our local businesses, especially those that are closer to the college. We realize there’s going to be some impact; we can’t (estimate) the magnitude of that at this time.”

Lincoln College was founded in 1865 by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and named after America’s 16th president and Illinois native, Abraham Lincoln. 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,” theGrio has reported from official statements.

The Lincoln College board of trustees voted several weeks ago to end all academic programming, effective May 13, the end of the spring semester.

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

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Lincoln College has a majority Black population.