Saint Joseph's College in Indiana announced Friday that it will suspend all operations after the end of the current semester and a graduation ceremony for seniors.
The college says it will help those of the 904 students who don't graduate find other options. Currently about 200 people are employed at the college, which said it would help them find a "smooth transition" to employment elsewhere. The suspension will last at least for the 2017-18 academic year.
"After significant introspection and countless hours of discussion among key administrators, the college has come to the solemn realization that its prior plans to grow out of the current financial challenges cannot be realized. The financial challenges are too steep in light of the current and potential resources available," said a statement released by the college.
"As a result, the board has concluded that the college cannot continue in its current form and needs to change the very fabric of the institution," the statement added. "This change must occur immediately to preserve our remaining resources to prepare for a launch of a future, re-engineered Saint Joseph’s College."
The statement added that the board considered either "significant operational restructuring" or shutting down the college, but that it lacked money for the former and wanted to preserve a chance for the college to be revived.
The college, a Roman Catholic institution, has operated since 1891. It has a 180-acre campus in Rensselaer, Ind., about midway between Chicago and Indianapolis.
The suspension of operations at Saint Joseph's comes at a time of growing concern over the finances of small, tuition-dependent private colleges that lack large endowments or other financial resources.
Dowling College filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, moving to sell its two campuses on New York's Long Island after shutting down last summer due to financial problems. St. Catharine College in Kentucky was shut down in July. Marian Court College closed in 2015. Moody's has predicted that the number of private college closures will increase over past levels.
Finances have been of paramount concern at Saint Joseph's. Its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, placed the college on probation in November. The commission's explanation for the action said that the college was in violation of the accreditor's standard that "the institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future."
In January, Robert Pastoor, president of the college, issued a letter to the campus saying that it needed to raise $20 million by June, and $100 million in total not long after that, due to "dire" finances. Officials told The Lafayette Journal & Courier that the college needed $100 million to deal with debt and deferred maintenance.
On a Facebook page formed recently by alumni trying to help the college, many comments suggested a sense that the college might not recover from suspending operation. Some comments focused on sadness, while many others said that the debt should never have been allowed to get so high that it could endanger the college.