Northland College

Wisconsin college says it will stay open, get smaller

May 3, 2024
Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin had announced it might have to shut down, but now says it will carry on with fewer students and faculty.

An eleventh-hour fundraising effort has helped Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, stave off closing.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the school will keep its doors open come fall under a new and smaller model with fewer majors.

The decision to remain open comes weeks after Northland announced a last-ditch fundraising campaign, saying it would shutter at the end of the school year unless it raised $12 million.

"It is not lost on us that today's announcement could have gone a very different direction," said Northland College Board of Trustees chairperson Ted Bristol. "Many colleges like Northland are being forced to make difficult decisions and we've seen many closures in recent years — even in recent weeks. We feel fortunate to be sharing a path forward despite the realities of declining enrollment and rising costs."

Under the new model, Northland will offer eight majors, including business, biology, education, psychology and four programs associated with the environment. That's down from the 29 majors now offered.

The college will also "right-size" its employee base to save $7 million. College President Chad Dayton said it was "too early to tell" how many of the roughly 45 faculty and 80 staff will lose their job.

The fundraising drive yielded $2 million to cover this school year's budget deficit and more than $4 million for next year's, Dayton said. The college did not secure additional loans and is "essentially debt-free."

Situated along the shore of Lake Superior, Northland College was founded by members of the United Church of Christ in 1892. The school has focused its programming on the environment and sustainability.

Northland has faced several years of declining enrollment and budget deficits. But officials said long-range projections under their new model puts the college on track for long-term stability.

The college has 439 students enrolled as of now. Under the new model, Northland is aiming to enroll 385 students next school year and grow its enrollment in future years, Dayton said.

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