Dear Commons Community,
Administrators at The King’s College, a small Christian liberal arts college in Manhattan, have been meeting with students in recent weeks to deliver a grim message: All of you should find someplace else to go to school.
The college has been struggling for years. But what began as a handful of layoffs in November quickly escalated to a doomsday scenario. Now it appears likely the school will close, and school officials have been going from department to department to show students a list of schools that might accept them as transfer students. As reported by The New York Times.
The King’s College is a small school. But as the city’s only high-profile evangelical college committed to “the truths of Christianity and a biblical worldview,” it is more well known than its enrollment numbers — over 600 students before the pandemic, down to roughly half that now — might suggest.
Its sudden decline has drawn national attention.
Most of its students are white, and many come from conservative households far from New York City. For them, King’s has been a pathway to a world beyond their lives back home, where roughly half were home-schooled or attended private, often Christian, academies.
In interviews, most said they hoped to stay in New York and transfer to non-evangelical schools, like Fordham University, Columbia University or the City University of New York. Representatives of the college did not respond to messages seeking comment.
“The one truth I am committed to is biblical truth,” said Matthew Peterson, 19, who said he grew up in a “homogeneous” Christian community in Ohio. “I really wanted to come to New York, where I knew I would be confronted with all sorts of ways of living and belief systems.”
Before the pandemic, the school dreamed of expanding, to give its brand of nondenominational Christianity a secure place in the country’s media and financial capital. But it appears instead to have been undone by a pandemic-related decline in enrollment and revenue. An unsuccessful foray into the world of for-profit online education, meant to help, may have only accelerated the downward spiral.
At a recent meeting, Paul Glader, a journalism professor, told students in his department to do everything they could to secure a spot at another school.
“If I were in your shoes, I would apply to all these schools, I would pray a lot, I would talk to my parents a lot. This is your life,” he said, as two administrators standing nearby nodded in agreement. “That being said, I hope we survive.”
King’s was founded in 1938 and moved campuses twice before it shut down in 1994 during an earlier period of declining enrollment and financial woe. It was revived in 1999 by Campus Crusade for Christ, whose founder, Bill Bright, said he wanted the school to educate two million students within its first decade.
The school never came close to that. But not long ago, it appeared to be standing on solid ground.
Before the pandemic, donations were reliable enough that King’s purchased a former hotel that it converted into a dorm named in honor of Richard and Helen DeVos, the parents-in-law of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. They were longtime donors who died in 2018 and 2017.
Before the school moved downtown in 2012, it boasted a rented campus in the Empire State Building. The high profile conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza once served as its president.
But since 1999, King’s has run multimillion-dollar deficits each year and relied primarily on donations to make ends meet.
Another victim of declining enrollments due in part to COVID.