CAZENOVIA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Cazenovia College will not be enrolling students for the 2023-2024 academic year as it has made plans to permanently close after the 2023 Spring semester, just shy of its 200th anniversary.

The Cazenovia College Board of Trustees had much deliberation about the decision and decided to close the college due to financial concerns accelerated by the global pandemic and skyrocketing inflation.

The college is currently working towards closure and in the Spring, they will work to assist students with their plans for transferring for the Fall 2023 semester.

The College will complete the Fall 2022 semester as scheduled and will be fully operational in the spring holding classes and events, including athletics and other normally scheduled activities.

“We’re deeply disappointed that it has come to this,” said Ken Gardiner, chair of the Cazenovia College Board of Trustees. “Considerable time and effort have been spent on improving the College’s financial position over the past several years. Unfortunately, the headwinds and market conditions were insurmountable, leading to a projected deficit of several million dollars for next year. As a result, the College won’t have the funds necessary to be open and continue operations for Fall 2023 and beyond. Our plan is to be open for the Spring 2023 semester during which faculty and staff will work with students to help them transfer to another college for the fall.”

Here are details in a Wednesday afternoon meeting with the president

  • The president commented on how this is a very sad day for the community, college, village, and alumni—a day they hoped would never come
  • He talks a lot about the financial troubles the college was in, the paths they took to try and remedy the situation, and the compounding factors of lower enrollment, the pandemic, and inflation
  • He says this didn’t come as a shock to the students and faculty, he’s had many conversations and communication with them that this was a possibility
  • They have created a teach-out plan for the students – forming 10 partnerships with 10 other institutions to give students the opportunity to transfer their credits to a nearby institution
  • They are providing wraparound services for the students to help with this process including counseling services
  • The college is working with employees to help them find their next job—offering references and other services
  • He’s not sure what will happen to the facilities as of now but is working with lots of partners to figure that out
    • The college generated an estimated $55 million of economic revenue a year for Cazenovia.

Watch the afternoon press briefing with the president

“The Department has been in contact with Cazenovia College and its accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, regarding the planned closure of the college and will continue to engage with the administration as it implements the closure plan and works with students to identify options for them to complete their degrees. It is our expectation that Cazenovia and the teach-out colleges will prioritize the interests of students and provide them with needed support, as this process proceeds,” said a Spokesperson for the New York State Department of Education.

Reasons for closure

Not only was it the business realities that led to the extremely difficult decision, but the population of college-aged individuals, which has been and continues to shrink, making it hard for small private colleges like Cazenovia to maintain enrollment levels.

“Being a small college without a large endowment has made the College’s challenges formidable. We have worked tirelessly to strengthen the financial position of the College through fundraising campaigns, adding graduate offerings, streamlining transfer pathways, and exploring alternative options,” stated David Bergh, president of Cazenovia College. “Unfortunately, these efforts did not create results to ensure long-term viability for the College.”

Since its peak with nearly 1,000 students on campus, Cazenovia’s enrollment has dropped by over 40 percent.

The pandemic also dramatically impacted the college’s recruitment and fundraising efforts while increasing economic burdens for the College.

Large investments in technology and campus safety measures were also made in the past year, but while enrollment dropped with students choosing to postpone college or take a leave of absence, the investments negatively impacted the College’s financial situation.

The college also had a bond debt that was due in September that they were unable to refinance due to the uncertainty in the bond and stock markets.

“I am very disappointed to hear that Cazenovia College will be closing its doors after 199 years next year.   The closure of the college will not only impact Cazenovia Colleges students, faculty, staff and alumni, but also the economy of the Town of Cazenovia and all of Madison County.  Our college students are a part of our community,” said Madison County Board Chairman, John M. Becker. “Unfortunately, the closure of the College is not a surprise, sadly this may not be the only institution or business we hear that will close its doors due to the current economy.  Thank you to Cazenovia College for everything you have done for our community over the years.”

Cazenovia College history

Cazenovia College was established in 1824 as the Genesee Seminary and in 1839, the seminary developed a curriculum which was focused on the education of women. In 1942, the church sponsorship of the seminary was withdrawn, and it was reorganized to include a junior college program as well as the preparatory school with the name, Cazenovia Junior College.

In 1961, it became the Cazenovia College for Women and later in 1982 returned to being co-educational and adopted the name Cazenovia College, although it was not recognized as a bachelor’s degree granting institution until 1988.

In 2019, it began its first graduate program, a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

“We really are a family on this campus,” continued Bergh. “It is an extremely difficult time for all of us, but we remain committed to students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

Notable Cazenovia College alums include:

Leland Stanford:  Founder of Stanford University, former US Senator and California Governor and President of the Central Pacific Railroad

Carole Cole: Daughter of Nat King Cole.  She was an actress, music producer, and the CEO of King Cole Productions.

Jimmy Van Heusen:  Academy and Emmy award winning songwriter. 

Where current students can transfer

The College has prepared to make students transferring experience to run smoothly by entering into agreements with the following higher education institutions:

  • Daemen University
  • Elmira College
  • Excelsior University
  • Hilbert College
  • Keuka College
  • LeMoyne College
  • State University of New York College at Oneonta
  • Utica University
  • Wells College

These institutions will provide pathways for students to continue their studies in the Fall 2023 semester and to help with their transition.

Other institutions will be added as agreements are finalized.