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Private university in Buffalo, N.Y., will close after merger plans unravel

May 18, 2023
A proposal for Medaille University to be acquired by Trocaire College fell apart.

Medaille University in Buffalo, N.Y., will close on Aug. 31, after a proposed acquisition by another college in Buffalo fell through.

The Buffalo News reports that Medaille's board of trustees voted to shut down the university after plans for Trocaire College to take over Medaille's campuses in Buffalo and Rochester unraveled.

Interim Medaille resident Lori Quigley said that neither school could disclose details about why the plan for Trocaire to assume all of Medaille's assets and keep its programs alive fell apart. 

Medaille was among colleges hard-hit by steep declines in enrollment worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Student numbers fell from 2,600 in fall 2012 to about 1,600 during the recently completed school year.

Trocaire’s enrollment also declined by more than 25% during that time. The school had about 1,500 students enrolled this year, but Trocaire has a healthier endowment fund. Trocaire’s endowment was worth $22.5 million at the start of fiscal 2021, and Medaille’s was valued at about $2 million.

The two schools had been working since last fall on an agreement for Trocaire to take over Medaille's campuses in Buffalo and Rochester and acquire its programs, faculty, staff and students to avoid the disruption of closing completely.

Medaille says it will work to help its students transfer to other institutions, as well as faculty and staff find new placements.

Villa Maria College in Buffalo is among the schools hoping to welcome Medaille students.

"As soon as the news broke that the merger (with Trocaire was off), we got to work on an agreement to ensure their students could pick up where they left off if Medaille closed," said Villa Maria President Matthew Giordano.

He said Villa, the region's smallest private college with about 500 students, is the most similar to Medaille in terms of programs, demographics and campus culture, 

Medaille saw growth through the 1970s, '80s and '90s as it expanded programs and facilities. In 1991, it added two residence halls, attracting students from across New York and Southern Ontario.

Since 2011, the school completed capital projects that doubled the size of Huber Hall and expanded the Kevin I. Sullivan Campus Center to create a 3,000-square-foot fitness center, an events arena with a 750-person capacity, locker rooms and student group meeting spaces. 

But the school has faced many of the same pressures as other private colleges across the nation. In 2020, amid pandemic-related losses, Medaille laid off 23 employees and gave early retirement incentives to 18 others. 

Last fall, Medaille officials began negotiating with Trocaire in hopes of preserving Medaille's programs.

Medaille traces its roots to 1875, when the Sisters of St. Joseph founded an institute to prepare teachers. In 1937, the order received a charter from New York State to grant baccalaureate degrees in education to women in religious orders, and the school was named Mount Saint Joseph Teachers' College. The school went co-ed and became Medaille College after a charter change in 1968, according to the school's history on its website.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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