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Eureka College to match 'net tuition costs' of displaced Lincoln students

Lincoln College

Eureka College will offer to match the "net tuition cost" of students who seek to transfer to the 167-year-old private school from either Lincoln College or Lincoln Christian University.

Via a news release, Eureka College, a four-year liberal arts school, said it would also "expedite the admissions process, waive the application fee and accept Lincoln College students from all programs."

Lincoln Christian University is still operational, but has scaled its offerings back and pivoted to offering mostly virtual programming; Eureka's offer to take both LCU and Lincoln College students follows an announcement from the latter school that said it would close its doors May 13.

In an email to staff, Lincoln College president said a cyberattack and the COVID-19 pandemic hit the school hard. Because enrollment projections fell "woefully short of what is needed" to sustain the school, he said, the school would close at the end of the semester.

The closure of Lincoln College, which maintained an extension site in Normal, will affect about 1,000 students, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Because the Higher Learning Commission regionally accredited Lincoln College, credits will remain valid after closure, according to the college's FAQ page, and other regionally accredited institutions will accept them for transfer.

"Graduating students in May of this year at Lincoln College can take some comfort in this: They are graduating from an accredited institution of higher education. Although that institution is not going to be there in the way that they knew it, as they crossed the stage, their degree does have value and will continue to have value moving forward,” Illinois Board of Higher Education deputy executive director Stephanie Bernoteit said in a Thursday interview with WGLT.

Bernoteit said her agency is working with Lincoln College students on an individual level, determining whether student loan forgiveness is possible or where the best transfer school will be.

Because many of Lincoln College's students are not from Lincoln, Bernoteit said there will likely be geographic diversity in the receiving institutions.

"There are going to be options in the Chicagoland area, and I think student choice in this process, which is certainly very disruptive and unexpected for learners, is really important. The intent is to provide an array of options," she said.

Lincoln College has been designated as a predominantly Black institution by the U.S. Department of Education, a designation that occurs in higher education institution when the student body population shifts from majority-white to majority-Black.

Bernoteit said that college closures — which can happen to any institution, public or private — can have a disproportionately negative affect on students from underrepresented groups, since those students may pivot to for-profit schools. In general, for-profit schools have higher costs and closures can come more suddenly.

The issue prompted U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who has long been critical of for-profit schools, to urge the state and the school's accreditor "to ensure that students are not that students are not steered to predatory, for-profit colleges to complete their education and that all efforts are made to provide them options at quality public and not-for-profit institutions that are geographically convenient."

In its closure announcement, Lincoln College said it is still in talks with the Higher Learning Commission and other groups to arrange "teachout options for our students at other schools."

Since 2016, at least five other Illinois colleges have closed their doors, including MacMurray College in Jacksonville in 2020.

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Lyndsay Jones