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Financial difficulty spells closing for Alabama HBCU after spring semester

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Concordia College Alabama, the only Lutheran Historically Black College or University, announced it will close at the end of the spring semester due to financial reasons. 

School administrators are meeting with each student individually to discuss their futures after the college closes, said spokesperson James Lyons. Lyons said their mission is to help make the transition as smooth as possible for students.

“We’re also having a college night on March 15,” he said. “We could have 35 to 50 institutions coming who are prepared to accept our students on the spot provided they have a copy of their official transcript.”

CCA was founded in 1922 as the Alabama Lutheran Academy in Selma and was significantly influenced by Rosa Young, who wanted to train African Americans in Alabama to be Lutheran pastors and teachers.

The school is affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which has provided institutional support throughout the college's existence. In a statement regarding the closing, LCMS expressed regret that the school was closing and cited its significant cultural, spiritual and educational role in the Selma community.

“The school has hardly been alone in facing such difficulties,” the statement read. “In recent years, many small, private, liberal-arts colleges have closed owing to financial pressures and other factors, such as low enrollments and small endowments. Religiously affiliated colleges have been particularly hard hit, as have historically black colleges and universities.”

Lyons said the college’s mission is to provide the lowest possible tuition and fees to continue Young’s mission to educate the poorest students in the Alabama black belt.

“We have the lowest tuition in the state of Alabama,” he said. “But at the same time expenses continue to increase, so for a business model standpoint that’s hard to maintain because you have to depend on philanthropy to fill that gap.” 

In the statement, LCMS reported providing $5.2 million in grants to CCA over the last ten years. 

“In fact, since July 2006, of the total subsidy (not including scholarships) given to the 10 campuses of the Concordia University System, CCA alone has received more than 44 percent of that amount,” the statement read. “But in spite of this assistance and funds from other sources, CCA — whose own efforts to stay viable have been robust — was not able to achieve acceptable and sustainable financial performance.”

Lyons said philanthropy, which previously sustained the school, has tapered off in recent years.

“We’re counseling and advising as best we can on moving forward,” he said. 

@OlivinOnAPrayer

state@dailytarheel.com

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