Judson College to close and file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – Baptist News Global
An urgent fundraising appeal at the end of last year had seemed to save Judson College, but declining enrollments and suspicious creditors sealed the fate of the historic school. After 183 years of operation, the college affiliated with Baptist will file for bankruptcy and will not reopen for the fall semester.
College administrators made what they called a “heartbreaking” decision on May 6, two days after one of the school’s creditors called the note on a loan that could not be repaid.
Additionally, only 12 new students had registered for the fall semester 2021, officials said, adding to the woes of declining enrollment for the all-female school located in Marion, Ala.
Only 12 new students had registered for the fall semester 2021.
In April, the trustees approved a 2021-2022 budget, based on the trust the board and administration had in “significant new donors to help close the college’s operating deficit,” a press release from the school explained. “Despite the college’s aggressive efforts in March to pursue promising leads with potential new donors, these significant funds never materialized.”
In December 2020, Judson officials issued an urgent appeal to donors, explaining that the school must raise $ 1.5 million in donations and pledges to stay open for the spring semester 2021. President Mark Tew wrote a one-page letter describing the school’s dire financial situation. He said the school must get $ 500,000 in donations by December 31 and an additional $ 1 million in unrestricted pledges to be fulfilled between January 1 and May 31, 2021.
At the start of 2021, this call seemed to have been successful. The college reported that donors gave $ 27,665 more than the $ 500,000 required at the end of the year and pledged $ 584,065 in pledges for the million dollars required by May 31. Plans have been made for a full academic year starting in the fall of 2021.
Inside Higher Education reported that the college raised over $ 2.53 million in the just ended academic year.
However, all commitments and all the additional funds needed to achieve the full goal have not materialized. And only 80 students had pledged to return in the fall, in addition to the 12 new registrants. Operating a college with fewer than 100 students is not financially viable.
All the commitments and additional funds needed to achieve the total target have not materialized.
The school’s press release said administrators explored a range of ideas, including potential mergers. Judson has occupied a unique space in today’s higher education market, being the last all-female college in Alabama and being a small Christian college in a rural area.
The Alabama.com news site reported comments from Roger Willmore, a former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention who sits on Judson’s board of directors.
“The administration, the president and the board has done everything possible to restore viability, ”he said. “Circumstances pushed us into a corner. Finances in general were a problem. I think we have tried all possible means to prevent this from happening. It was a heartbreaking decision for everyone. The members of the board of directors agonized on this subject. No one wanted to see this happen. There is a spirit of mourning that sets in.
The college press release quoted President Tew as saying, “We know it was the right decision, but there is no one here whose heart is not broken because of it. I share the sorrow of this decision which is felt by generations of students, teachers and friends of Judson. “
Board Chair Joan Newman said, “Today’s vote is the result of months of research, fundraising and, yes, prayer. Acknowledging Judson’s incredible legacy, acknowledging the thousands of lives that have been changed through a Judson experience, and grateful for my own personal journey to Judson, it is with a broken heart that the board votes to suspend teaching.
The school said it would suspend studies operation after a summer term ending July 31. Closure of residences after a summer term in May 2021.
The business transition required to close a college is governed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the US Department of Education. In Judson’s case, a bankruptcy court will also be involved. The trustees said they would create a five-member committee to work with administration and bankruptcy lawyers.
“Financial challenges like these are not unique to Judson and did not happen overnight.”
Inside Higher Education reported that Fuller Higher Ed Solutions had been hired to help the college chart possible avenues, which included shutting down or investing up to $ 40 million in a turnaround plan.
“Financial challenges like these are not unique to Judson and did not happen overnight; they are the result of slippery enrollments, accumulated deferred maintenance, decisions of the previous administration and gaps in data shared with the board of trustees on the state of the college, ”the report said. “The pandemic helped by increasing the pace of the impact, but the college was already in dire financial straits before March 2020.”
The Judson campus sits on a 118-acre site in Marion, a small town about 75 miles southwest of Birmingham. The school has been affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention throughout its history and currently receives $ 1 million per year from the convention.
According to its 2018 IRS file, the college reported total assets of $ 32 million.