Despite College Closures Across U.S. On The Rise, There Is Currently No Fed Requirement To Alert Or Warn Students—Or Their Parents—If College’s Fiscal Dangers Could Force An Abrupt Closure

For Weeks Now, Seesaw News Had Dowling ‘Closed,’ ‘Open,’ & Now ‘Streamlined’ – With Students and Families Left in the Lurch; Senator Pushes Fed Dept. Of Education To Make Immediate Changes To Fed Regs That Give Students The Information They Need To Plan For Their Future 

Schumer: Fed Alarm Bells Signaling Dowling Trouble Were Ringing In 2014, But Students Never Knew—And That’s Unacceptable

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called for a notification warning system aimed at protecting college students from being put at risk and left in the lurch in the event that their school closes. Schumer is calling on the U.S. Department of Education to require colleges and universities to warn students of a possible closure as soon as the school is designated in the Department of Education’s ‘danger zone’—meaning the school is at financial risk of closing its doors.

“College students should not have to shake the 8-ball when it comes to asking about their school’s financial footing,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Students deserve crystal clear answers from the school themselves and a fair warning if fiscal trouble could lead to an abrupt closure. Anything less is just unacceptable. The fact that college closures across the U.S. are on the rise demands the U.S. Department of Education implement this warning system requirement as soon as possible. Our young people need to be told the truth about their colleges’ financial health or lack thereof, even if the truth hurts.”

Schumer’s push comes in the wake of waffling reports regarding the future of Long Island’s Dowling College. With reports changing each day, Schumer explained that thousands of prospective and current Dowling students are scrambling to access information on how to proceed with their studies. Schumer said that there are too many colleges like Dowling across the country and stuck students deserve better. Schumer today explained that a notification warning system would shine a light on a bleak college’s financial stance so students could formulate a contingency plan to protect their academic credits, financial aid and most importantly, their futures.    

A September 2015 Moody’s Investor Service report narrates a rise in college closures across the country. According to the report, closures among four-year public and private non-profit colleges averaged five per year from 2004-2015. In 2014, six colleges closed and Moody’s predicts as many as 15 institutions per year could close by 2017.

Since 1955, Dowling College has operated as a small liberal-arts campus on the south shore of Long Island. The school was the first four-year college in Suffolk County. There are two campuses: Oakdale and Shirley. Approximately 2,453 students are enrolled at the school, with 1,783 enrolled as undergraduate students. Full-time undergraduate tuition is approximately $26,590 annually (as of 2013-2014 semester) and 93 percent of full-time undergraduate students received some sort of financial assistance in the 2013-2014 academic year.

After years of financial challenges and $54 million in long-term debt, Dowling College recently announced it would close its doors to students, faculty and staff. Since May 31st, the school has set two different closing dates: June 3rd and June 8th. Faculty and staff were told in an e-mail from the President that their final day of employment was June 1st. However, students currently remain uncertain as to whether the school is officially closing. According to media reports, the trustees have continued discussions with Global University Systems, an education investment firm based in the United Kingdom, as a means to remain open.

The closing of Dowling College would leave 1,500 students, and an additional 200 incoming students, in a midst of confusion as there have been no clear answers as to when the school will officially close, how transcripts and transfers will be distributed, how undergraduate students will proceed with their courses or whether they will be able to keep their financial aid packages. According to reports, students and faculty members were given a three day warning of the school’s closure. In the meantime, students have been scrambling to access official records and student transcripts, as well as attempting to secure future placement in nearby colleges with which to complete their degrees. Molloy College was recently designated as the primary contact for displaced students.

Schumer said that all colleges and universities that received Title IV federal funding should be required to adhere to this proposed notification warning system. Federal student aid programs are authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, and provide grants, loans, and work-study funds from the federal government to eligible students enrolled in college or career school.

Schumer’s letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education appears below.

Dear Secretary King,

I write today urging you to take a proactive role in protecting the interests of college students across the country by issuing regulations that require colleges and universities to notify students of potential school closures. Students deserve to know well in advance if their college or university is under threat of closure, especially due to financial situations that are reported to the Department of Education. By requiring that schools in a certain financial situation notify students, the Department of Education will allow students to smoothly transition from one institution to another without disruption of their academic record.

Currently, the Department of Education collects annual data on the financial state of colleges and universities. Unfortunately, even with the data, this information is not efficiently disseminated to the people these institutions serve: their students. Approximately 1500 students from Dowling College, located in Suffolk County, New York, were notified of their college’s closure a mere three days before they were scheduled to close their doors even though Dowling had been in serious financial trouble for almost two years. In addition, the closing date for Dowling College has changed several times leaving students with inconsistent information.  It is imperative that students are provided with the opportunity to plan for their college careers. This can only happen if they are aware of major changes, such as school closures with significant notice.

With student careers at stake, I urge you to issue regulations that would require colleges and universities that are in certain financial situations deemed by the Department of Education, to notify their students of the financial situation and of any potential closure. This information should then be disseminated to students within a reasonable timeframe so that students are given the opportunity to prepare and if necessary, transition into a new institution rather than being caught off-guard by an unknown school closure.

Policies that impact students’ ability to succeed must remain a top priority, and I urge you to take swift action to remedy this gap in student services by ensuring students are made aware of their institutions ability to remain open. I look forward to working with you on this important issue.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator


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