Lincoln College, a private higher education institution based in Illinois, announced its permanent closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a cyberattack in 2021.
Over the past 157 years since its establishment, Lincoln College survived great challenges including a major campus fire in 1912, the Spanish flu in 1918, the Great Depression, World War 2, the 2008 global financial crisis, and many more.
However, the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cyberattack crippled its finances. The institution’s Board of Trustees decided to cease all of its academic programs on May 13.
In Fall 2019, Lincoln College had a record-breaking student enrollment. Its residence halls were at maximum capacity. However, the pandemic negatively impacted its enrollment, all campus activities, and its financial situation.
“Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically impacted recruitment and fundraising efforts, sporting events, and all campus life activities. 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,” according to Lincoln College in its announcement.
The final blow was the cyberattack, which prevented the instution’s admission activities and access to data.
Lincoln College explained that the cyberattack “created an unclear picture of Fall 2022 projections. All systems required for recruitment, retention, and fundraising efforts were inoperable.”
The institution said its systems were fully restored in March and no personal information was compromised. However, its enrollment suffered “significant shortfalls” and it needs help to survive.
In April, Lincoln College President David Gerlach told the Chicago Tribune that the institution paid a ransom of around $100,000 to regain access to its data. He also stated that it needs $50 million to continue its academic programs.
Lincoln College tried its best to strengthen its financial position by selling assets consolidating employee positions and exploring alternatives for its leased building in Normal. Its “efforts did not create long-term viability” amid the pandemic.
Gerlach stated, “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.”
Lincoln College already informed the Illinois Department of Higher Education and Higher Learning Commission regarding its permanent closure. It is one of the few rural colleges in the United States that was recognized as a predominantly Black institution by the Department of Education
According to a report by Emsisoft, 88 education sector organizations including 72 school districts and 26 colleges and universities were victims of ransomware attacks last year.
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