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Cazenovia College to permanently close just shy of 200 years

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Cazenovia College Website
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The spring 2023 semester will be the last for students and faculty at Cazenovia College. The Madison County college announced it would permanently close after the spring 2023 semester — citing financial concerns.

No students will be enrolled in the college for the upcoming 2023-2024 academic year.

The college said it is in talks with other institutions to aid current students as they transfer to other schools. Those colleges include: Daemen University, Elmira College, Excelsior University, Hilbert College, Keuka College, LeMoyne College, State University of New York College at Oneonta, Utica University, and Wells College. Other institutions could be added once agreements are finalized.

Ken Gardiner, chair of the Cazenovia College Board of Trustees, said in a news release that the board is disappointed at having to make the decision to close the college.

“Considerable time and effort have been spent on improving the College’s financial position over the past several years," Gardiner said. "Unfortunately, the headwinds and market conditions were insurmountable, leading to a projected deficit of several million dollars for next year. As a result, the College won’t have the funds necessary to be open and continue operations for Fall 2023 and beyond. Our plan is to be open for the Spring 2023 semester during which faculty and staff will work with students to help them transfer to another college for the fall.”

The college said its enrollment levels peak at nearly 1,000 students, has dropped 40 percent with 560 full-time students enrolled in the Fall 2022 semester. The college said the COVID-19 pandemic and increased inflation accelerated the college's financial problems.

“Being a small college without a large endowment has made the College’s challenges formidable," David Bergh, president of Cazenovia College, said in the release. "We have worked tirelessly to strengthen the financial position of the College through fundraising campaigns, adding graduate offerings, streamlining transfer pathways, and exploring alternative options.”

Bergh told reporters Wednesday that those alternatives could not change the trajectory of the college's future.

"We weren't able to identify a path to financial sustainability in the future," Bergh said. "Out of obligation to our incoming students, we could not ethically in good conscience, recruit a new class of students knowing that we could not secure long-term financing."

Madison County Board Chairman John Becker shared his disappointment in a statement.

"The closure of the college will not only impact Cazenovia Colleges students, faculty, staff and alumni, but also the economy of the Town of Cazenovia and all of Madison County," Becker said. "Our college students are a part of our community. Unfortunately, the closure of the College is not a surprise, sadly this may not be the only institution or business we hear that will close its doors due to the current economy. Thank you to Cazenovia College for everything you have done for our community over the years.”

Bergh said he's not yet sure what the future for the campus facilities, including horses at the equine center, will be — saying he does not want to see the heart of the Village of Cazenovia left vacant.

"We're the heartbeat of this village," Bergh said. "We are the pillar institution of this village. We have an estimated $55 million of annual economic impact in the region. We feel an obligation and a commitment to do anything we can to assist with any conversations about potential future uses of the campus."

The college plans to be fully operational during the spring 2023 semester holding classes, athletic events and graduating student's commencement ceremony.

Cazenovia College was founded in 1824 as the Genesee Seminary. In 1961, it became the Cazenovia College for Women later returning to co-educational learning in 1982 as Cazenovia College. In 1988 it was recognized as a bachelor's granting institution and in 2019 started its first graduate program with a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.