Lincoln College, a liberal arts college in rural Illinois, has announced that it would close its doors later this month, 157 years after its foundation and after a financial blow from the COVID-19 outbreak and a recent ransomware strike.
The college has already weathered several tragedies, including a devastating fire in 1912, the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, the World Wars, and the 2008 global financial crisis, making this decision much more difficult. However, a ransomware strike in December was the final straw, and the decision to shut down on May 13, 2022 was unavoidable.
The Illinois Department of Higher Education and the Higher Learning Commission have been alerted of the school’s impending permanent closure. Its Board of Trustees has already resolved to suspend all academic activities at the conclusion of the spring semester. As NBC initially reported, this Illinois liberal arts school is one of the few rural American schools designated by the Department of Education as a mostly Black institution.
“Lincoln College was a victim of a cyberattack in December 2021 that thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data, creating an unclear picture of Fall 2022 enrollment projections,” reads an announcement available on the college’s website. “All systems required for recruitment, retention, and fundraising efforts were inoperable. Fortunately, no personal identifying information was exposed.”
The forecasts showed significant enrollment gaps once completely recovered in March 2022, necessitating a transformational grant or collaboration to continue Lincoln College beyond the present term. According to an Emsisoft analysis, Lincoln College was only one of over 1,000 institutions affected by ransomware last year, making it the first school to be shut down due to a ransomware operation.
As per Emsisoft, ransomware affected 88 education institutions last year, including 62 school districts and the campuses of 26 colleges and universities throughout the country, interrupting learning at 1,043 schools. Even while the number is fewer than the previous year (1,681 educational institutions were targeted), this is primarily because such assaults in 2021 targeted smaller school districts.