Climbing inflation and falling enrollment are among the financial pressures forcing Cazenovia College to close permanently in spring 2023. Leaders of the nearly 200-year-old private college outside Syracuse, New York, said in Wednesday’s closure announcement that enrollment has plunged by more than 40% since peaking at just under 1,000 students.
Leaders had been working hard to improve the college’s financial condition over the last few years, said Ken Gardiner, chair of the Cazenovia College Board of Trustees. “Unfortunately, the headwinds and market conditions were insurmountable, leading to a projected deficit of several million dollars for next year,” Gardiner said. “As a result, the college won’t have the funds necessary to be open and continue operations for fall 2023 and beyond.”
Cazenovia College will operate as normal through spring 2023, holding all scheduled athletic events and other activities. During the final semester, college staff members intend to assist students with transferring to another institution for fall 2023, when Cazenovia will cease enrolling students.
Cazenovia is reaching agreements with a growing number of other higher education institutions to provide transfer pathways for its students. Those schools include Daemen University, Elmira College, Excelsior University, Hilbert College, Keuka College, LeMoyne College, State University of New York College at Oneonta, Utica University, and Wells College.
COVID derails Cazenovia College
The COVID pandemic severely hindered the college’s recruiting and fundraising efforts. It also forced the college to make large investments in safety and technology at a time when revenues were sapped as students took leaves of absence and postponed their enrollment. Even before COVID, the population of college-aged individuals was declining in the Northeast U.S.
Bond and stock market uncertainty had also made college leaders pessimistic about their chances of refinancing bond debt that came due in September. “Being a small college without a large endowment has made the college’s challenges formidable,” Cazenovia College President David Bergh said. Along with fundraising campaigns, leaders expanded the college’s graduate programs and streamlined transfer pathways in efforts to stabilize Cazenovia’s finances. “Unfortunately, these efforts did not create results to ensure long-term viability for the college,” he concluded.
Cazenovia College was established in 1824 as the Genesee Seminary. In 1839, the seminary developed a curriculum to educate women. In 1942, church sponsorship of the seminary was withdrawn and it was reorganized as a junior college that was eventually renamed Cazenovia College for Women. It became co-educational in 1982 and was designated as a bachelor’s degree-granting institution in 1988. Cazenovia launched its first graduate program, a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, in 2019.