MARION, Ala. (AP) — Trustees cited a lack of money and declining enrollment in deciding to close Baptist-affiliated Judson College, a small school for women which predates the Civil War. The decision Thursday (May 6) came just days after what could be the last graduation exercises at the college in Marion affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention.
Judson was founded in 1838 and is the nation’s fifth-oldest college for women. But a $1.5 million fundraising drive launched in December didn’t bring in enough money, and enrollment declined from 145 to about 80 with only a dozen new students committed for the fall. The board had approved a budget for the upcoming academic year, but funding didn’t materialize to ease the deficit of the school, which is about 80 miles northwest of Montgomery.
“New donors did not materialize, student retention is much lower than expected, and mounting debt pressures have increased,” Judson President Mark Tew said. “The combined effect of these three items left us no choice.”
Problems became insurmountable when one of Judson’s creditors called the note on a loan on Tuesday, according to a statement from the school.
Judson will suspend academic operation after the summer term ending July 31 and begin the process of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Eighteen members of the 24-member board voted in favor of the closing.
Board chairwoman Joan Newman, who is a Judson graduate, said the decision followed months of fundraising, research and prayer.
“Acknowledging the incredible legacy of Judson, acknowledging the thousands of lives that were changed through a Judson experience and grateful for my own personal journey at Judson, it is with broken hearts that the board votes to suspend instruction,” she said in a release issued by the school.