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The College of Saint Rose to close this year

The 103-year-old school in New York State, one of the nation's more diverse Catholic higher education outfits, cited low enrollment and budget shortfalls.

(College of Saint Rose)

The College of Saint Rose, a notably diverse Catholic institution in Albany, New York, has announced it will close after 103 years of operation. The decision follows months of speculation following the school’s pending loss of accreditation due to financial woes.

The board of Saint Rose announced the news of closure on Nov. 30, following a determinative vote. The school will remain open through the end of the semester and complete a single summer session for 2024.

“It is with a heavy heart that the Board decided to close the college at the end of this academic year,” said board chair Jeffrey D. Stone in a statement

“The Board determined that the College does not have the financial resources to operate for the full 2024-2025 academic year and therefore cannot remain a standalone institution.”

The college, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1920, has for years served a working-class population and is among the nation’s most diverse Catholic institutions of higher education—including a student body that was only just over 50% White and more than a third Black and brown.

Admission declines forced the school to eliminate dozens of academic programs and faculty in 2015, and further changes—including a vote of no confidence in then-president Dr. Carolyn J. Stefanco—inflamed fears that the school was facing serious administrative issues. An additional $8M of budget cuts in 2020 aimed to balance Saint Rose’s budget by 2023, but the efforts were unsuccessful.

By June 2023, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education announced that the school’s financial shortfalls could result in the loss of accreditation, and gave the administration six months to right the ship. In November, the school sought emergency funds from the New York State Legislature, but to no avail.

“We are heartbroken to have to share this devastating news with the students and our community,” Saint Rose president Marcia White told students and employees on the day of the official public announcement. 

“The Trustees and I are profoundly grateful to the College’s faculty and staff who have remained committed to Saint Rose and have dedicated their lives to fulfilling its mission.”

The school has released a teach-out plan intended to give students sufficient information to make transfer plans and avoid interruption of their studies. The school has approximately 2,566 undergraduate students in the 2023-24 academic year, down some 8% from the previous year and more than a third from pre-pandemic numbers.

A FAQ published on the Saint Rose website noted that enrollment is “about half of what it was in 2010,” but that the school continued to accept applications and students because administrators believed efforts to secure sufficient funding would be successful.

The College of Saint Rose in November 2023. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

A half-dozen colleges and universities in the region have agreed to become “Teach-Out Partners” with Saint Rose, facilitating the transition of students to a commensurate degree program in their respective schools, and discussions are ongoing with several others. As of Sunday evening, only one Catholic institution—Siena College—is among the confirmed partners.

“I feel bad for all the students, staff, faculty, admins and Albany itself, as this institution goes under,” wrote the Catholic-raised Black poet John Keene on social media. He was one of several prominent voices to speak out following the closure, due to close ties to current or former faculty and students.

Notable alumni of the school include comedian and late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon, Black professional athletes Garth Joseph and Glen Barker, and MSNBC journalist Kyle Griffin.

Saint Rose is one of several Catholic institutions of higher education to shutter since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Holy Names University in Oakland, California; Marymount California University in Palos Verdes; Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire; Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin; and Chatfield College in Ohio. 

Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, which like most of those schools featured a particularly diverse student body (including significant numbers of African Americans), announced in summer 2023 that it will effectively cease operations at the end of the school year and be acquired by Villanova University.

In Albany, no final plans have been announced for the future of the Saint Rose campus, with administrators noting that the board is “working to address” the issue. 

“The College will partner with city, county and state economic development agencies as well as the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association to make a determination.”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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