The King’s College students grapple with fall plans
With classes canceled at the Christian school in New York, students consider transfer options
Last spring, when then-college freshman Raychel Yost signed up for fall classes at The King’s College in New York City, she knew she probably wouldn’t attend her medieval philosophy class. Or any of the other classes she selected, for that matter.
She was right.
King’s announced in July that it would not hold fall 2023 classes. The announcement followed months of periodic updates suggesting impending closure for the 85-year-old Christian institution. Leaders at King’s cited financial difficulties exacerbated by COVID-19 and a troubled economy. The shutdown leaves King’s students like Yost looking for alternative options.
Yost knew her school was facing daunting financial problems. The homeschooled Oklahoman had picked King’s for its classical education model and smaller class sizes. She decided to major in politics, philosophy, and economics—with a minor in theology. She wanted to attend a Christian school that would challenge her.
“I wanted to be able to find truth, not just people’s agendas,” she said. “And I felt like King’s was a place where I could do that.”
Yost said some of her friends began applying to other schools last spring, anticipating that King’s would close. She signed up for fall classes anyway, just in case: “I was pretty much [in] an ‘I’m going to go down with the ship’ mentality.”
The school has closed before. Financial struggles temporarily shuttered King’s in 1994, but it reemerged in 1999 with a handful of students. It underwent turmoil again in 2012 after school President Dinesh D’Souza resigned following a WORLD report of his engagement to another woman while married.
When the pandemic arrived, New York City’s COVID-19 restrictions brought King’s College more challenges and lower enrollment numbers, though the school tried to adapt quickly.
“When COVID hit in 2020, my mental health took a toll, and I could tell I was in no place to make a cross-country move,” former student Sarah Arrigotti wrote for the school’s TKC Letters Project. She credited the school’s hybrid program for allowing her to study virtually until she was ready to relocate to New York.
Running a private liberal arts school is expensive—particularly in downtown New York City. The cash-strapped school faced more financial troubles after longtime donor and billionaire Richard DeVos died in 2018. In 2021, the school partnered with billionaire Peter Chung’s Primacorp Ventures, but the school and businessman reportedly disagreed over growth plans and priorities. The two sides ended the partnership in April of this year.
In February, school officials said the school was $2.6 million short of funds needed to finish the spring semester for its fewer than 400 students. Chung loaned the school $2 million after a fundraiser fell short of its goal.
The school’s accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), said in May it was revoking King’s accreditation due to its unsustainability and “being in imminent danger of closing.” King’s appealed the decision, but after the school’s later cancellation of fall classes, the accrediting organization said on July 27 that it considered the school “closed and no longer operational” and that the closure “terminates The King’s College’s appeal.”
In an emailed statement Monday, MSCHE noted that it instructed King’s to submit a formal request for closure by Aug. 11. King’s did not return emails seeking comment.
MSCHE listed five other schools with teach-out agreements that would allow King’s students to transfer and complete their studies. One of the schools, Houghton University, confirmed Tuesday it had accepted three transfer students from King’s, two of whom had already committed to attending. Another, St. Joseph’s University, said it had accepted 15 King’s students, with three enrolled. Alfred University said it had not yet had any transfers.
Ann Monroe-Baillargeon, associate provost at Houghton, stressed that the schools had not finalized a formal agreement with King’s. “There is an agreement in draft,” she said. “These conversations have been going on since February.”
She acknowledged “the timing is challenging for students” but said Houghton is “very ready” to discuss fall transfers with anyone from King’s who may be interested. “First and foremost, we want to keep the students in mind.”
Yost hopes to stick with her major when she transfers to another school, but for now, she plans to take a gap year before returning to her studies. She doesn’t plan to continue studying in New York. “I’m just taking time to rest and reset so that when I do go back to school, I can pick a school that I feel confident in,” she said.
Despite last year’s uncertainty, she’s glad she spent her freshman year at King’s.
“God has surprised me a lot,” she said. “I’ve seen through all the hardship, and the heartache. … He takes that pain and He transforms it into something that gives you joy. And that is an experience that is 100 percent worthwhile.”
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