SOUTHINGTON — The final semester of Lincoln College of New England begins early next month, leaving students with questions about where they’ll continue their education at the end of the year.
Some of the classes scheduled for the fall will take place in Southington and others at Goodwin College in East Hartford. Lincoln and Goodwin signed an agreement that waives admission fees for students who transfer. Lincoln credits will transfer to Goodwin College, according to the agreement.
The schools are nearly identical in price, both costing just under $20,000 in tuition per year for a full-time student.
On social media, frustrated students questioned why the college announced the closure this week. Alumni said they worried that the closure would hurt their ability to get a job in the future.
Lincoln officials said an accreditation group put the college on probation in June. Leaders of the for-profit education company that owns Lincoln decided to close the school, which had been declining in revenue and enrollment. It has about 200 students.
Barbara Brittingham, president of the New England Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, said Lincoln offered programs such as mortuary science that were hard to find. But despite serving a unique market, the college is struggling against demographic and economic trends that are resulting in fewer college-aged students.
In times of low unemployment, fewer adults go back to college, Brittingham said. That particularly hurts institutions that primarily offer two-year degree programs, such as Lincoln. In the Northeast and other parts of the country, a declining birth rate means fewer college-aged students looking to enroll in schools. Population trends project that problem to worsen for the foreseeable future.
“Not only are things tough now, there’s every reason to believe they’re going to get more difficult,” Brittingham said.
The bleak demographic outlook likely influenced Lincoln Educational Services leaders in their decision to close the school, she said.
Some of Lincoln’s programs were also more expensive to run, such as mortuary science and dental hygiene requiring specialized equipment and accreditation.
On Tuesday, the campus’ main office was busy with students and employees. Media were not allowed to talk to students or remain on campus. School officials provided written statements on questions that may arise.
It’s unclear what will happen with the Southington campus on Mount Vernon Road. It’s owned by a company with a Florida address, according to state records, and leased by Lincoln.
Even after the school closes at the end of December, Goodwin may continue offering some classes in Southington, according to Goodwin communications director Phil Moore.
“There could be a program that needs a certain layout that they have down there,” he said.
Lincoln was formerly Briarwood College and Clemens College.