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August 19. 2014 6:15PM

Lebanon College announces cancelation of fall classes

LEBANON — Fall classes at Lebanon College have been canceled, due to low-enrollment and the community college’s high debt, said college president Ron Biron.

“Without a substantive Fall increase in enrollment across the board and particularly in the areas of our allied health programs and certificates, we feel this is the first step towards closing Lebanon College,” Biron wrote in an email Tuesday. “It truly is disappointing to our entire team who’ve worked on creating an academic culture that is student-centered while adding value to local (New Hampshire) and (Vermont) employers. Ultimately, the response was not there, thus our decision to begin closure.”

The cancelation of classes affects 53 full-time students, 18 of which would have been new to the college this fall.

Biron said Lebanon College has approximately $2.2 million in debt involving both the academic buildings on the mall. Biron said he is currently in strategy talks with the college’s lender and senior banking office on real estate.

“We are working on strategies that involve our current students and providing academic resources with other institutions or a teach-out plan with Lebanon College,” he wrote.

In a statement on behalf of the college’s Board of Trustees, chairman Arthur Gardiner, said, “It is with heavy heart that we have decided that the College cannot responsibly begin the fall term because anticipated revenues will not be sufficient to sustain operations through the term. The Board has voted not to begin classes for the fall and to work with current students to make arrangements to complete their courses of study. Lebanon College has been an important asset in the Upper Valley for over fifty years. We are distressed that we have no other option.”

Expenses have substantially exceeded revenues for many years at Lebanon College, Gardiner said. The college has also battled low enrollment.

“Recently the College has attacked this problem by expanding a curriculum of academic certificate programs designed to give students credentials needed for local employment. This has been facilitated by accreditation from the Accrediting Counsel for Independent Schools and Colleges that has made students in those certificate programs eligible for federal financial aid,” Gardiner wrote. “Over the past two years the college has made important progress down the path we have chosen. We had looked forward expectantly to a big jump in enrollment this fall from the College’s recent Allied Health initiative. But as it turns out, less than half the hoped for number of new students have signed up. We do not have enough students to make the College financially viable.”

Lebanon City Manager Greg Lewis said Tuesday he was made aware of the college’s financial crisis last week and had the city’s grant writer reach out to college officials. Unfortunately the timeframe was too short to find alternative funding other than more debt, Lewis said.

“The financial challenges have been going on at the college for a while, this is just one more step,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the city is looking for ways to support the college.

“If they come up with ways of reinventing themselves or changing their paths we will be looking to being supportive of them,” Lewis said.

Community college is an important educational choice for residents, Lewis said. If the college were to close he would support community college services that could fill that need, he said.

The lack of Lebanon College students downtown would also have an impact on businesses and restaurant, so city officials would also work to support a new and appropriate use for the building.

mpierce@newstote.com


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