Another Private College May Close

College of New Rochelle has been unable to recover from scandal involving false budgets and unpaid payroll taxes.

February 25, 2019
 
College of New Rochelle

The College of New Rochelle announced Friday that it will likely close by the end of the summer of 2019.

A memo to the campus from the president and board chair said, "The college continues to experience significant cash flow challenges. In multiple forums, President [William] Latimer has stated that the three courses of action facing the College of New Rochelle include closure and teaching out existing students, partnership or standing alone. At this point in time, it appears unlikely that the college will be able to continue operations beyond the end of the summer 2019 semester."

The memo goes on to say that the college is in discussions with "an educational institution that is party to a memorandum of understanding," but that the proposed MOU would not preserve the college. "That institution is not considering a merger or acquisition of the college and is not considering the assumption of any of the college’s debt," said the memo. "The discussions are now focused on finalizing an arrangement with that institution that would meet the continuing educational needs of CNR’s students without interruption and may necessitate the retention of a number of faculty and staff."

The College of New Rochelle has some challenges that are typical of Northeastern private colleges without much money. But with enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, the college has more of a student base than do many other private institutions.

The college's economic free fall has roots that are different from those of other institutions. In 2016, the college announced the abrupt resignation of President Judith Huntington, saying that the turnover at the top came after trustees learned of “significant unmet financial obligations” that had the institution preparing for major budget cuts and possible financial exigency. Then a few weeks later, the college announced that it had not made payroll taxes for two years and owed about $20 million in such payments. Further, the college had additional debts of more than $11 million and said that budgets prepared for the board were inaccurate.

Since then, the college has made major cuts and has been accused of making faculty members (who have lost their jobs) pay for mistakes made by administrators. The college has also been trying to resolve issues related to the unpaid taxes and incomplete budgets. The memo issued Friday said, "The College of New Rochelle‘s audited financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018, have not been completed due to open audit items. These include negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service to abate accrued penalties under the installment plan for the college’s outstanding federal tax liability that were stalled during the shutdown of the federal government and are ongoing. Because of this matter and the ongoing financial challenges, the college’s auditor has not yet made a final determination as to CNR’s ability to continue as a going concern."

The cuts have been controversial and contested in court. A New York State judge ruled last week that the college improperly dismissed a group of tenured professors in 2017, in violation of terms set in the faculty handbook. Additional hearings are now being held before a ruling on whether they’ll get their jobs back, possibly with back pay, but that would come as the college is now expected to close.

Two colleges -- Green Mountain College and the Oregon College of Art and Craft -- have already announced closure plans this year. Hampshire College has announced that it will not admit a full freshman class while the college explores options for mergers or partnerships.

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