They survived both World Wars. These colleges, however, won’t survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Mills College, in Oakland, California, will close its doors in the fall, the school announced — adding to a growing list of colleges and universities that are shutting down for good amid the ongoing public health crisis.
Because of “economic burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic,” as well as declining enrollment and structural changes, Mills College will shut its doors in the fall, and become the Mills Institute.
But it will gain a new life as a part of the ‘Changemaker in Oakland Program,’ which will allow 200 neighboring University of California, Berkeley to live and study on the Mills campus during the 2021-22 academic year.
What makes the closure particularly devastating: Mills College was founded in 1852, two years after California became a state and nine years before the Civil War.
But over a year into the ravaging pandemic, Mills isn’t alone.
Another school, Concordia College, outside Manhattan, New York, announced in January that it will also close its doors in the fall.
Another school, Iona College, will acquire the campus and allow students to finish their degrees with Iona. Concordia, a liberal arts college that has been operational since 1881, has about 1,500 students.
While Concordia has faced challenges in recent years, the school’s financial problems were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Concordia College wrote in a statement on the school website: The decision was made through a “deliberative, thoughtful and strategic process, informed by immutable business realities.”
Concordia College in Bronxville, photographed Aug. 5, 2019, is facing a whistleblower lawsuit from a former employee, as well as its accreditation status being placed on probation.
MacMurray College, which had been one of the oldest colleges originally for women in the United States and one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in Illinois, closed it doors in March 2020.
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Charles O’Connell, chairman of MacMurray’s board of trustees, told the Springfield State Journal-Register of the USA TODAY Network that the pandemic and subsequent economic disruption had been factors that complicated the college’s financial troubles.
MacMurray was founded in 1846, meaning the college also weathered the Civil War in the 1860s and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. So did Urbana University in Ohio, which was founded in 1850, but shut down in April 2020.
The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity offer a blessing during the Unveiling a New Chapter event at Holy Family College Sept. 19, 2019. The 136-year-old college was forced to close May 2020 because of the “significant” financial hit from coronavirus.
“The global coronavirus pandemic has added a level of stress and uncertainty to Urbana’s prospects that make it impossible to sustain,” the university said in a news release.
For others, such as Wisconsin’s 136-year-old Holy Family College, the “significant” financial hit from coronavirus “made an already tough situation unsustainable.” The school announced last August that it would close in May.
These colleges aren’t the only ones to shut their doors and some fear they won’t be the last. Among small private schools, especially in Wisconsin, there’s a sense of mourning.
“I think all of us hope that we’re never in this situation,” said Christine Pharr, president of Mount Mary University in Milwaukee.
“It makes me incredibly sad,” she said of Holy Family’s closure, noting the loss of history, of careers and of a community. “These are really hard times and COVID-19 is not making it any easier.”
Contributing: Ryan Santistevan, Rockland/Westchester Journal News, Jennifer Smola, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Devi Shastri, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19: These colleges, steeped in history, are closing for good