St. John’s University to close Staten Island campus in spring 2024

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Dive Brief:

  • St. John’s University, a New York-based Catholic institution, plans to close its Staten Island campus at the end of the spring 2024 term, it announced Friday
  • The university cited the fact that enrollment has fallen at that location for decades and said the factors contributing to the decline worsened with the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • St. John’s will not admit a first-year class to the Staten Island campus in fall 2023 and will develop a plan for current students to complete their degree programs. Its accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, must approve the plan. 

Dive Insight:

Enrollment challenges have existed for small nonprofit colleges for many years, but the spread of the coronavirus exacerbated them. Financially strained institutions found themselves buffeted by significant enrollment declines and losing key auxiliary revenue as campuses shut down temporarily.

The result was several closures or consolidations attributed to the pandemic, including Marymount California University, near Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Art Institute. In both cases, the institutions had attempted to merge with another college, but the deals fell through. 

St. John’s Staten Island presence dates to a similar time of stress on small colleges. The location’s history goes back to Notre Dame College of Staten Island, a women’s institution, which merged into St. John’s, creating the branch campus in 1971. 

At St. John’s Staten Island campus, enrollment tumbled from 2,309 undergraduate and graduate students in fall 2000 to 861 students in fall 2021. An overall decline in traditional college-age students in Staten Island mirrors a similar pattern in the Northeast, St. John’s said. Enrollment at K-12 Catholic schools in Staten Island decreased, and those students had been a strong feeder into the campus. 

“The decision to take this step followed prayerful reflection and an extensive examination of historic and continuing population trends,” a university statement said.

The university tried to reset Staten Island tuition in the 2015-16 academic year as a way to potentially stem the enrollment bleed, dropping it to just over $10,000. 

It also phased out a program in 2021 in which it leased neighboring off-campus apartments for students. Campus dining and busing services were also discontinued in recent years. 

St. John’s said it will create an endowed scholarship fund to support Staten Island residents who enroll at its main campus in Queens, where it currently enrolls the bulk of its 20,000 students. 

It also said it hasn’t made teach-out plans with other institutions and will only offer students the option to continue their degrees on the Queens campus.

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