After Backtracking, Dowling College Closes for Good

Dowling College to close
Dowling College in Oakdale (Long Island Press photo)

Dowling College administrators decided this week to close the Oakdale-based school down for good following on-again, off-again plans to shutter the debt-ridden 48-year-old private institution that’s losing its accreditation next month.

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Dowling’s board of trustees voted Tuesday against appealing a recent decision by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the college’s oversight agency, to withdraw Dowling’s accreditation on Aug. 31 following a two-year review. The college, which had been in partnership talks with international college affiliate Global University Systems (GUS), had announced in May its plan to close in June, but then reversed that strategy. This week, Dowling reversed course again, opting instead to shut down.

“We have made this very painful decision in order to minimize the disruption to Dowling students,” Michael Puorro, chairman of Dowling’s board of trustees, said in an email to students Tuesday. “We want to allow students and their families to make the best possible transition to other institutions.”

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Dowling College’s enrollment dropped significantly

Founded on the site of the former William K. Vanderbilt estate overlooking the Connectquot River, Dowling, which also has a campus in Shirley, saw enrollment plunge from 6,379 students in 2005 to 2,453 by fall 2014 as it struggled to repay $54 million in debt, according to The Associated Press. Other small private colleges nationwide have also shuttered recently for similar reasons. Briarcliffe College, which has campuses in Bethpage and Patchogue, announced six months ago that it’s closing in 2018.

When Dowling first announced its plans to close, it sparked sadness and anger from current and former students, as well as faculty and staffers.

“I spent the whole day crying when I found out the news,” Jessica Glaz, a Dowling freshman, previously told the Press.

“They lied to everyone. They should have stopped admitting new students,” one staffer who asked not to be named had said.

Dowling gave three-day notice of its closure in the first announcement, then delayed shuttering its doors twice before holding a news conference announcing that it planned to stay open, pending a deal with GUS. But some students were suspicious.

“I can’t say I’m anything less than skeptical at Dowling’s ‘re-opening,’” said Aaron Henderson, a second-generation Dowling student who was a sophomore majoring in psychology and is now transferring to SUNY Fredonia. “With no professors and not a whole lot of students looking to come back, I can’t see why anyone would try to keep it open.”

Now that Dowling went back to its original plan to close, more than 400 professors who were laid off will continue looking for new work, and students will transfer to other colleges. What will come of Dowling’s two campuses, remains to be seen.