N.J. university steps in to save Bloomfield College from shutting down

Published: Mar. 23, 2022

Five months after announcing it was in deep financial trouble, Bloomfield College has found the savior it was hoping for to help keep one of New Jersey’s oldest campuses from shutting down.

Montclair State University, a public university just a 10 minute drive away, will step in to loan Bloomfield College the money it needs to stay open for the 2022-2023 academic year while the two schools work out a permanent partnership, campus officials announced Wednesday.

The highly-unusual affiliation between a private college and a public university was authorized with a vote by Montclair State’s Board of Trustees in an early-morning meeting. Bloomfield College will get to keep its name and mission under the deal, officials said.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s state budget proposal will also include $5 million in taxpayer money to help offset any funds Montclair State will need to pay to keep Bloomfield College afloat, university officials said.

“The missions of both institutions are closely aligned,” said Montclair State University President Jonathan G.S. Koppell. “We are both committed to providing access to high-quality educational experiences to students who are often marginalized. So this response to financial adversity is borne of the conviction that together, we can make an even greater impact on the communities we serve.”

The announcement comes as a relief to students, professors and staff at Bloomfield College, which had announced in October this might be the last school year at the 153-year-old private college. The college had been in the red for years as declining enrollment, increasing expenses and the financial toll of the pandemic put it in a financial crisis.

Bloomfield College President Marcheta Evans shocked many in the higher education community last fall when she went public with the institution’s financial problems and said the campus would not reopen for the 2022-2023 school year unless it found another college or philanthropic group to save it.

Campus officials were hoping that Bloomfield’s unique feature — as New Jersey’s only four-year private college that serves predominantly Black and Hispanic students — would inspire someone to step in.

Montclair State, located about 7 miles from Bloomfield College’s campus in Essex County, saw the value in a partnership, Koppell said.

“This is what it means to be New Jersey’s premier public service university: turning challenge into opportunity through collaboration and innovation. I look forward to working closely with President Evans to craft a strategic relationship that could serve as a national model of innovation,” Koppell said.

Bloomfield College’s president said she is grateful for Montclair State’s help. The private college had been signing non-disclosure agreements to secretly meet with other schools and institutions for months to see if they could strike a deal, officials said.

“Montclair officials, including President Koppell, toured the Bloomfield campus several times and were impressed by our students, faculty and staff as well as by our programs and facilities. Most importantly, Montclair shares our commitment to students from historically underserved populations that is our core mission,” Evans said.

Bloomfield College, which enrolled 1,533 students last year, primarily serves low-income, minority and first-generation college students. It is among a growing number of small and mid-sized private colleges that have been struggling to stay afloat in recent years.

In New Jersey, Centenary University in Hackettstown, Drew University in Madison and Rider University in Lawrenceville are among the private colleges that have publicly discussed their ongoing financial problems. But Bloomfield is the only school that has put out a national call for someone to rescue them from a financial death spiral.

The presidents of Montclair State and Bloomfield College quietly signed a non-binding letter of intent in December to pursue a merger or affiliation, officials said.

Montclair State’s board voted Wednesday to authorize the university’s president, treasurer and interim vice president for finance to finalize a deal to give Bloomfield College any money it needs to stay open for the 2022-2023 academic year. Any loans made under the agreement will be secured by a lien on real estate owned Bloomfield College.

Bloomfield College’s board has also voted to authorize its president and interim vice president of finance and administration to sign a financial agreement, school officials said.

It is unclear what a more permanent partnership between Bloomfield College and Montclair State might look like in the future or how it will affect the students on the two campuses, located just miles apart.

But for now, Bloomfield College is safe, said Francis Cuss, chair of Montclair State’s board.

“We are committed to working together to build a relationship that would advance the missions of both institutions and create opportunities for the students and communities that we serve,” Cuss said.

“The funding agreement the trustees approved today will be a line of credit that the college can draw upon, should it be necessary, while the details of a permanent relationship are explored,” he added.

Do you like this post?

Showing 1 reaction

published this page in News and Politics 2022-03-24 03:12:52 -0700