Citing “financial difficulties,” the College of New Rochelle (CNR)—the first Catholic college for women in New York state—is closing, ceasing operations by the conclusion of the summer semester at the latest. A closing date has not been determined.
CNR announced March 5 it has entered into an agreement with Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry to allow CNR students—CNR has been co-ed since 2016—to continue their education there.
Both colleges are seeking the necessary regulatory approvals to bring about the agreement, which would allow CNR students in good standing the opportunity to transfer to Mercy, as CNR’s designated preferred institution for almost all academic disciplines offered by CNR.
The agreement also offers an improved financial arrangement, as most CNR students will see the same or lower tuition and will not lose credits or time toward graduation, according to the announcement.
The college, which is under financial duress, is reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office and other regulatory authorities for financial improprieties dating back to 2014. A CNR spokeswoman told CNY that the college is cooperating with the authorities.
In late August 2016, the executive committee of CNR’s board of trustees learned of significant unmet financial obligations, the spokeswoman said. “These financial irregularities began to be discovered after CNR’s controller retired in early July 2016, after 37 years of employment at the college.”
Shortly after the controller’s retirement, it was discovered that about $20 million in state and federal payroll taxes had not been filed or paid by CNR for eight quarters, beginning with the quarter ended September 30, 2014 through the quarter ended June 30, 2016, said the spokeswoman. “Beyond this, the internal investigation revealed significant vendor payables, significant depletion of endowment assets, and drawing down on lines of credit.”
Since 2016, the board of trustees and administration have worked to stabilize the college’s short-term finances while exploring approaches for long-term stability and direction. “In February, CNR determined that it lacked sufficient resources to continue going forward on its own beyond summer 2019.”
The March 5 announcement said Mercy College hopes to retain many of the CNR faculty and to continue to use some of CNR’s current facilities in New Rochelle and at some of its New York City campuses.
The agreement is not an acquisition, merger or partnership between the two institutions, and Mercy College is not assuming any level of ownership of the College of New Rochelle, or any responsibility for its debts or financial obligations.
“As we work to continue the education of CNR’s students under the stewardship of Mercy College for fall 2019, we are simultaneously moving college operations forward to graduate the CNR Class of 2019 at commencement in May,” said a March 5 letter signed by CNR’s president, William Latimer, and Marlene Tutera, interim chair of the college’s board of trustees, which also appears on the CNR website.
CNR and Mercy share a number of similar program offerings, notably in nursing studies and adult education, which encompass the greatest number of CNR students. For degree programs not currently offered at Mercy College, Mercy is in the process of seeking regulatory approval to begin offering those courses at the start of the fall 2019 semester.
“Often when a college closes, its students are forced to find their own path forward in their education, frequently losing credit for courses they have taken, finding themselves in a new environment with new faculty, and extending the time it takes to earn their degree,” said Latimer and Ms. Tutera. “We were determined not to allow that to happen for our students.”
The College of New Rochelle was founded by the Ursuline Sisters in 1904. At a time when young women were generally excluded from higher education, Mother Irene Gill, O.S.U., believed that Catholic women in New York must be afforded access to college. That conviction led her to found the College of St. Angela—the first Catholic college for women in New York State. The school’s name was changed to The College of New Rochelle in 1910.
The College of New Rochelle comprises four schools—the School of Arts & Sciences, the School of Nursing & Healthcare Professions, the Graduate School and the School of New Resources for adult learners. Based in New Rochelle, the college also operates five other locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem and Yonkers.