NYC’s The King’s College Notifies Parents of $2.6 M Shortfall
In an email to parents on Feb. 6, The King’s College announced it was experiencing a “funding shortfall of approximately $2.6 million for the spring semester, due primarily to the timing of pending income.”
The email came from David Leedy, the college’s Dean of Students.
Leedy wrote, “This academic year, King’s has been caught in the perfect storm of a slow, post-COVID-19 recovery, an economic downturn, and rising interest rates which have complicated the sale of our DeVos building. Because of these factors, King’s, like many other small colleges and universities, is experiencing a financial strain.”
DeVos Hall is a residential building purchased by the college in 2018 to provide housing for King’s students. The building was named for Richard and Helen DeVos, longtime benefactors and board members of the school.
The letter said, “If we can sell DeVos Hall, this will free up over $1 million in cash. Also, the College qualifies for a government grant of up to $2.5 million in employee retention credits as part of the broader COVID-19 funding packages, but these funds typically take six months or more to receive.”
Until then, Leedy wrote, the “College is diligently pursuing opportunities to ensure that King’s regains financial stability. The College has scaled back on discretionary spending across the board. Please know that we are prioritizing the essential functions of the College and remain committed to providing your student with the highest quality of education possible. We are also reaching out to potential donors, both large and small, to help us make up the shortfall.”
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The King’s College has a long history of Christian education in the New York area. Evangelist and Billy Graham associate Percy B. Crawford founded The King’s College in 1938 in Belmar, N. J. The school moved to Delaware City, Del., in 1941 and then to Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., in 1955. The school grew, reaching nearly 1000 students by 1980. But it then went through a period of decline, and in 1994 the school shut down.
It did, though, retain its charter – which turned out to be a valuable asset for Bill Bright, then president of Campus Crusade for Christ, who had long wanted to build a distinctively Christian and academically rigorous college in New York City. The school re-opened as a ministry of Campus Crusade – now called Cru — in 1999 with just a few dozen students. It grew to more than 500 students by 2018.
Christian Colleges Face Existential Threats
The King’s College is not the only Christian college facing financial challenges. Changing demographics, COVID, evolving technologies that make distance learning more attractive, and changing public perceptions about the value and high costs of a college education have reached what some are calling an “inflection point” in higher education.
In 2020, Moody’s Investment Service downgraded the higher education sector of the economy from stable to negative. Moody’s analysis said nearly a third of America’s public and private universities were already operating at a deficit.
The crisis threatens the survival of some weaker institutions, and even those that survive will emerge weaker as they struggle with destructive ripple effects for years.
“The current epidemic is hurting all American colleges and universities but, like the disease itself, it will be fatal only to some,” said a 2020 opinion piece from Inside Higher Ed, which projected that dozens to possibly 100 colleges might close their doors that year.
Forbes magazine highlighted these struggles in a Nov. 2019 article, “Dawn Of The Dead: For Hundreds Of The Nation’s Private Colleges, It’s Merge Or Perish.” Forbes assessed the strength and weakness of 933 American private colleges, grading them on a scale from A+ to D. It gave Cs and Ds to 675 of the schools, including dozens of Christian schools – though The King’s College was not on the Forbes list in 2019.
MinistryWatch has reported on the closure a number of Christian colleges over the past few years. Nebraska Christian College shut down in 2020. Also in 2020, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary announced it would no longer offer doctoral degrees in biblical archeology. Cincinnati Christian University announced it closed its academic programs in 2019.
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen said as many as half of all universities will close or go bankrupt in the next decade. The Great Recession drove a significant drop in the U.S. birthrate that has continued, and that will impact higher education for decades to come.
Nathan Grawe popularized the term “birth dearth” in his 2017 book, “Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education.” He believes the number of students graduating from high school in New England will be 24 percent lower in 2029 than it was in 2012.
Steve Rabey contributed to this story.
DISCLOSURE: Warren Smith worked for The King’s College as a consultant from 2010-2012. His son is a graduate of the school.