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End of the Road for a College

January, 2023
By John C. Huckans

The village in which I live (Cazenovia in central New York) has a college, which traces its roots to 1824, that is about to close at end of the current semester. For most of its life it was a secondary school or seminary run by the Methodist Church. At some point it cut its religious ties and became a two-year college for young women. The first time it closed was in May of 1974 - I remember it well because we heard the news on the radio as we were driving down I-81, having just returned from a year in Spain (Granada) by way of the Stefan Batory, sailing from London to Montreal.
 
The college was rescued thanks mainly to the support of local friends and business people. Also, long-term debt was not a major factor at that time. The new administration made some major changes - admitting young men and then expanding to a four-year program, while taking on a lot of long-term debt to fund ambitious building projects. Even though Pell grants brought in a lot of money that colleges were allowed to keep even when academically-unqualified students dropped out part way through Freshman year, this did not help build a deep or loyal alumni base. Also, with almost free tuition at NYS public colleges available to NYS residents, enrollment at many expensive private colleges has declined throughout the region.
 
N.B. The college (I did my undergraduate & graduate work elsewhere) that our family has contributed to significantly for some years (I've never even set foot on its campus) has been in existence since the 1840s and is in financially sound condition. It has a supportive alumni base, accepts no Pell Grant funding or any other form of government support (with accompanying constraints) and as a result remains one of the few oases of intellectual and academic freedom in the United States.