Home News End Of An Era? The King’s College Halts Courses, Lays Off Faculty

End Of An Era? The King’s College Halts Courses, Lays Off Faculty


Editor’s note: The following article was reprinted with permission from ReligionUnplugged.com.

By Rafa Oliveira and Mandie-Beth Chau

The King’s College in New York City is no longer offering courses in the upcoming fall semester, is laying off its entire faculty and is closing its current chapter according to the board of trustees, staff interviews and updates from the school’s accreditor.

Since the end of the 2023 spring semester, members of the King’s community received periodic emails from the board containing updates about the state of the college. The emails mostly concerned the college’s accreditation appeal and an assurance that the board was diligently engaged in “discussions with another Christian university related to a strategic alliance.”

In late July, students, staff, parents and faculty finally received some concrete information in the latest email from the board: “Following months of diligently exploring numerous avenues to enable the College to continue its mission, the Board of Trustees has determined King’s will not be offering classes for the fall 2023 semester. … Further, it is with regret that we share that our faculty and staff positions will be reduced or eliminated, as was addressed in respective faculty and staff meetings earlier today.”

The school’s accreditor was more emphatic. The Middle States Commission for Higher Education announced on July 27 that it “will consider the institution closed and no longer operational” and “this institutional closure terminates The King’s College’s appeal.”

A death of King’s 2.0? Or 4.0?

Some staff and faculty are saying this is the death of King’s 2.0. But it might actually be the death of King’s 4.0.

This is the fourth time in its history that King’s has closed or relocated. King’s originally opened in Belmar, New Jersey, in 1938 before being relocated to New Castle, Delaware, in 1941. In 1955, the Tidewater Oil company requested that the campus be removed for industrial use, and King’s was forced to relocate to Briarcliff Manor, New York, in 1955 after losing its appeal in court.

In 1994, the college closed due to financial burdens but left the charter open in hopes of reopening again in the future. In 1999, King’s again admitted students, this time in the Empire State Building in New York City, before relocating to the Financial District in lower Manhattan in 2012.

“The decision to not hold classes this fall was very difficult, but with so many changes taking place it was also necessary,” Henry Bleattler, the new interim provost, said of the announcement. “We want only to offer the best education we can. By taking a break from classes, the administration and board can focus on finding a long-term path forward, which has always been the goal.”

RELATED: Love Letters to The King’s College During its Hour of Greatest Need

Private, Christian colleges in trouble

One of the potential partners from earlier this year, Alliance University (formerly Nyack College), also announced its closure after losing its accreditation. As a result of Alliance’s and King’s closures, there are currently no Protestant/evangelical Christian colleges operating in New York City.

College closures run rampant across America, especially among religious colleges. Christianity Today reported that at least 18 Christian colleges have closed since 2020.

“There are now zero Protestant Christian colleges in New York City. … The missional/church planting movement never believed in us,” said Anthony Bradley, a professor at King’s who taught classes in religion and theological studies, in a tweet on June 30. He continued in a thread, “It’s not the money, it’s enrollment. Christian families, led by their pastors, no longer value Christian higher education because it’s not a church.” 

The King’s College has been open since 1938, Alliance University has been open since 1882, and Concordia College was open from 1881-2021. Despite the history of these colleges, they each struggled to meet the enrollment and fundraising quotas necessary to tackle the high cost of functioning in New York City, especially post-pandemic.

According to Joshua Blander, a professor of philosophy at The King’s College, much of the faculty had been expecting the announcement from the board for months.

The collective mood at the faculty meeting “was somber and disappointed, but resigned,” he told ReligionUnplugged.com.

“I was hoping we would have a fall semester because I wanted it to happen, but I was not hopeful that it would happen because I continually thought it rather unlikely,” Blander said. “Frankly, being buffeted about from January until now, with news shifting with every announcement, made it extremely challenging to know what to think at any given moment. Even during the time with the reconstituted board, we had wild shifts of narrative that yielded emotional highs and lows for many people.”

The board of trustees remains adamant that its decision does not mean the permanent closure of King’s, even as all staff and faculty positions have been “reduced or eliminated.” The board said that the college continues in the appeal process with the Middle States Commission for Higher Education over its accreditation and continues to pursue a partnership with another institution.

“We understand and personally share in the challenges that come with uncertainty,” Katelyn Tamm, King’s director of marketing, told Religion Unplugged, “but join with so many of our students, alumni and faculty in a firm belief that King’s and Christian higher education in New York City is worth fighting for. The board and senior leadership continue to press forward in that fight.”

Accreditor presses for closure

Meanwhile, Middle States is more emphatic that King’s should face reality and close. In an update on July 27, Middle States said King’s must “submit a substantive change request for institutional closure by Aug. 11.” It said King’s must show it’s transferring student records to Houghton University in upstate New York and surrender its degree granting authority from the New York State Education Department.

In recent weeks, the King’s campus in lower Manhattan was quiet with small groups of faculty and staff, sorting papers for shredding and books for donation and moving out their personal items. Some faculty and staff are announcing their new plans and jobs online, while others are expecting to receive unemployment benefits as they continue searching for employment.

Many students are frustrated at how the institution they loved is crumbling before their eyes.

Sarah Bensinger, a 2022-23 junior and the former development assistant at King’s, doesn’t feel like she has an alma mater anymore, even though King’s has not technically shut down. She, like many other students, also feel let down by the institution they grew to love. 

Halfway through the school year, Bensinger’s supervisor resigned, and she was left shouldering the burden of an entire department alone.

“I became responsible for processing all donations, calling all donors, creating and sending reports to different teams within the staff, and virtually running the whole department. I was in the position for less than a year,” she told ReligionUnplugged.com. “I was frustrated that I was put in such an essential position within the school without having the proper resources to do a good job. I heard at the same time that everyone else did that we needed to raise $2.6 million, but who was going to do that? Were they expecting me to? Who was going to tell me how to do that? Being the only one in the department as a student worker trying to balance school and the presidency of a house and the grief of the situation made this virtually impossible. I did not have much support to reach out to. I spent most of the spring semester in survival mode.”

RELATED: Closing The King’s College Would Be A Tragic Loss 

Bensinger, like many other students, is deeply saddened by the thought of King’s being empty in the fall, regardless of institutional shortcomings of the past semester. 

On July 27, some students, staff and faculty gathered in the O’Keefe Student Union on campus to bid a final farewell to campus. The Fulton Street Chick-Fil-A donated sandwiches and nuggets to the event. King’s had catered food from there many times before.

“The idea was to bring everyone together to say goodbye to the place we loved. For many, our last experience in 56 Broadway was full of uncertainty,” said Elli Stone, a 2022-23 junior who helped promote the event. “Now that certainty has been communicated to us, we wanted to create space for people to gain some closure and properly grieve this ending.”

Around 40 dedicated students remained committed to The King’s College in June, prior to the college’s hiatus announcement. The college assured students and their families that it will provide academic and financial aid advising resources for those students as they plan their fall semester.

“Transferring wasn’t something I wanted to do; it complicates all of my plans for my senior year and is a major upset,” said Aidan Kurth, who transferred to Fordham University. “I’m not happy that I have to transfer, but I can’t wait around for King’s to open again to get my degree.” He noted that he made transfer plans in May, though he waited until after King’s announcement to officially commit to Fordham. 

A shell of its former self?

Despite the board’s insistence on pursuing every possible avenue for King’s to reopen in the future, some students and faculty question if The King’s College they left behind would be the same school they would eventually come back to if it were to reopen. 

“Do I have any reason to expect King’s to start offering classes again? Sure. Obviously it’s logically, metaphysically and physically possible,” Blander said. “And the new board seems to have a high degree of determination. But losing accreditation, even though we are appealing, means it will be an uphill battle. Based on the timeline for bringing on new students and faculty, especially for marketing and admissions processes, it’s hard to imagine how King’s could reopen before the 2025-26 academic year. We need to raise money for the short term and the long term, and we can’t keep operating at such a massive deficit.”

The board’s efforts — students and faculty have said — are surely admirable, but reopening a college such as King’s is no small feat in New York City. Costs are extremely high for housing, salaries and operations. King’s would have to regain accreditation. Private, liberal arts colleges with high tuition costs are finding it harder to enroll students amid rising student debt. Colleges in America face a demographic cliff in 2025 as birthrates dropped after the 2008-2010 financial crisis.

“The board knows all this, all too well.” Blander said. “That collection of issues has been hanging over the college for years. Now it’s even more complicated and challenging. But they’ve only had about 100 days to work on these problems. How long are they willing to exert the massive effort to reopen? Who knows? Will any of our old faculty still be available, or even want to return? Who knows? At that point, you also have to worry about the DNA of the college. After all, a board works at a macro-level to develop, preserve, and extend the mission of the college. But the faculty are the ones who carry out the mission daily and term by term. We’ve already lost some of our most talented faculty to other schools. For their sake, I hope that everyone who wants a new academic job will find one. If that happens, who would be left, even if the college reopens?”

The college had open positions for president and provost in recent years. A politics professor named Matt Parks served as interim provost the past two years as King’s conducted a search for those positions. Parks left the role in May to take a job in the private sector. Business program chair Kimberly Reeve then became interim provost.

“In this last, tough semester, I added a couple more roles, including development director (had the privilege of helping to raise $1.2M in 12 weeks from our generous parents, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends), and most recently, interim provost,” Dr. Reeve said on LinkedIn recently. “It’s sad to be ending with uncertainty over our future, but I know the legacy of King’s lives on in each student, faculty and staff member, alum, and parent.” 

Reeve spearheaded a significant portion of the college’s financial planning and communication, largely via emails and “community updates,” throughout the spring 2023 semester. Reeve also recently announced she will be dean of the business program at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey. Reeve handed the interim provost title and duties to Harry Bleattler, a professor of media, culture and the arts.

“I love The King’s College and aim to do everything I can to help the college succeed,” Bleattler said. “Working here has been my life’s calling.  When I retire, I want to do so knowing I gave The King’s College everything I had. I can tell you that the board is working overtime to implement a long-term solution. I know this sounds like a broken record, as we’ve been hearing this for the last six months, but they really are working diligently to save the college.”

Rafa Oliveira is an intern with ReligionUnplugged.com covering technology and religion. He is a recent graduate of The King’s College in New York City with a degree in politics, philosophy and economics. He speaks Portuguese, English and Spanish and is an ardent Manchester United Supporter.

Mandie Beth-Chau completed her freshman year at The King’s College and was the campus editor at The Empire State Tribune. She is transferring to Fordham University.