Atlantic Union College announced today, February 21, it will close at the end of the current semester. The Adventist college in Lancaster, Massachusetts has been in operation for almost 140 years. It closed in 2011 after losing its accreditation, and re-opened in 2015 with the hope of regaining accreditation, but that did not happen.
According to the Worcester Business Journal, the current students, who number fewer than 50, were informed yesterday about the decision. The two bachelor’s degrees the college offers will be discontinued at semester’s end, while the six continuing education certificates will end no later than December.
The news outlet Sentinel & Enterprise reported that “Atlantic Union spokesman Emmanuelle Ortiz said Wednesday that the most recent closure was because of financial backers pulling their support from the school.”
In April 2017, the Southern New England Conference voted to end its nearly $800,000 per year subsidy to Atlantic Union College. The college appealed the decision, but the SNEC stood firm.
Ortiz told the Sentinel that "There are two [more] conferences that want to pull out completely and a third that wants to cut its funding by half…We did a feasibility study and there's no way for the school to continue on financially."
Atlantic Union College has articulation agreements in place with Southwestern Adventist University and Andrews University, and according to the Telegram, the college will work with students to help them transfer their credits to these schools so they can complete their degrees.
The school has struggled to attract students since reopening in 2015. Without accreditation, students are ineligible for federal financial aid. In an interview with Spectrum in 2015, newly elected president Avis Hendrickson said the school had 11 students enrolled for the fall semester. By fall 2016, that number had risen to 31 enrolled students, according to AUC’s enrollment report.
In August 2017, a student-led petition began circulating, accusing Atlantic Union College of lying to students and parents. Atlantic Union College and the Atlantic Union Conference issued a joint statement in response to the petition, stating that “the most recent Atlantic Union College Audited Financial Statement indicates a healthy and sustainable financial environment for the school under the current operation.”
The statement went on to say that “the Atlantic Union Conference Executive Committee, on the recommendation of the North American Division Education Department, voted to establish an independent task force to conduct a feasibility study to determine the sustainability of the college in this current environment.”
It was the results from this feasibility study that led to the decision to close the college.
As of this writing, an official statement from Atlantic Union College about its closing has not been published to its website or social media outlets.
UPDATE (Feb. 23 at 8:45 a.m. EST): A press release is now available on the Atlantic Union Conference website.
Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
Image Credit: atlantic-union.org
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