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Lower enrollment, debt force Cazenovia College to close

Carly Stone
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 12/8/22

Cazenovia College officials have announced the nearly 200-year-old school will be closing permanently following the Spring 2023 semester.

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Lower enrollment, debt force Cazenovia College to close


CAZENOVIA — Cazenovia College officials have announced the nearly 200-year-old school will be closing permanently following the Spring 2023 semester as mounting debt and declining enrollment made it impossible, officials said, to remain operational after the current academic year.

“After much deliberation, the Cazenovia College Board of Trustees has determined that due to financial concerns, the college will not be enrolling students for the 2023-2024 academic year. The college is working toward closure prior to the start of the Fall 2023 semester. The college will complete the Fall 2022 semester as scheduled and will be fully operational in the spring holding classes and events, including athletics and other normally scheduled activities. During the Spring 2023 semester the college will also assist students with their plans for transferring for Fall 2023,” the college wrote in a press release shared on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

The announcement follows Cazenovia College default on a $25 million bond payment after an effort to refinance it with a long-term loan failed back in October.

“We’re deeply disappointed that it has come to this,” said Ken Gardiner, chair of the Cazenovia College Board of Trustees. “Considerable time and effort have been spent on improving the college’s financial position over the past several years. Unfortunately, the headwinds and market conditions were insurmountable, leading to a projected deficit of several million dollars for next year. As a result, the college won’t have the funds necessary to be open and continue operations for Fall 2023 and beyond. Our plan is to be open for the Spring 2023 semester during which faculty and staff will work with students to help them transfer to another college for the fall.”

The college said several factors are to blame for its closing, including difficulties with enrollment due to a shrinking pool of college-aged individuals, challenges brought on by the global pandemic, and “skyrocketing” inflation.

The college reported that since its peak with more than 1,000 students on campus, Cazenovia’s enrollment has dropped by more than 40%.

“Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically impacted recruitment and fundraising efforts while increasing economic burdens for the college,” the announcement said. “Large investments were made in technology and campus safety measures while enrollment dropped with students choosing to postpone college or take a leave of absence, which negatively impacted the college’s financial situation.”

“Lastly, the recent uncertainty in the bond and stock markets made it exceedingly difficult to refinance the bond debt which came due in September,” the announcement said.

“Being a small college without a large endowment has made the college’s challenges formidable. We have worked tirelessly to strengthen the financial position of the college through fundraising campaigns, adding graduate offerings, streamlining transfer pathways, and exploring alternative options,” said David Bergh, president of Cazenovia College. “Unfortunately, these efforts did not create results to ensure long-term viability for the college.”

News of the small, rural private college closing came as a shock to many students and parents.

“Can’t believe it. Never thought it would happen,” one parent of a Cazenovia College student shared. “They have one more semester and it’s done. Closed up. Final death notice is exactly what it is.”

The parent continued, “They’re affecting a lot of lives.”

The news was dropped on the college’s scheduled “Reading Day,” a day after the fall semester classes have ended and before finals begin.

“To do this near finals week, when kids are trying to get their finals done and study, why would you do it this week? Why not wait until finals are over?” the parent remarked.

Just shy of its 200th anniversary, Cazenovia College was established in 1824 as the Genesee Seminary. In 1839, the seminary also developed a curriculum which was focused on the education of women. In 1942, the church sponsorship of the seminary was withdrawn, and it was reorganized to include a junior college program as well as the preparatory school with the name, Cazenovia Junior College. It then became Cazenovia College for Women in 1961. In 1982 it returned to being co-educational and adopted the name Cazenovia College, although it was not recognized as a bachelor’s degree granting institution until 1988. In 2019 it began its first graduate program, a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

“We really are a family on this campus,” continued Bergh. “It is an extremely difficult time for all of us, but we remain committed to students, faculty, staff, and alumni.”

Officials reported that the college has entered into agreements with the following higher education institutions that will provide pathways for students to continue their studies beginning with the Fall 2023 semester and will be assisting students with their transition: Daemen University, Elmira College, Excelsior University, Hilbert College, Keuka College, Le Moyne College, State University of New York College at Oneonta, Utica University, and Wells College.


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