Dowling College in Oakdale closes its doors after 48 years

June 1, 2016 at 12:07 am

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Dowling College, the 48-year-old liberal arts school, will cease operations and close its doors effective on Friday afternoon after unsuccessful efforts to grow enrollment and find a suitable academic partner to stabilize the debt-ridden institution.

The college’s president, Albert Inserra, announced the decision in a statement released by spokesman Gary Lewi just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, which would have been the first day of summer classes.

“As painful as this announcement is we want the student body, faculty and alumni to know that we made every effort to form a suitable academic affiliation so that we could keep the college open,” Inserra said. “Unfortunately, despite months of lengthy negotiations we were unable to form such an affiliation, and our only option is to cease operations. This painful decision is a reflection of the unprecedented financial challenges facing countless private educational institutions across the nation and the difficult choices that many must now face.”

According to the release, administrators will work with other colleges and universities to help Dowling students complete their studies.

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Opened in 1968 on the grounds of the former waterfront Vanderbilt estate in Oakdale, the college offered degrees with schools in arts and sciences, education, aviation and business.

The college has been on the brink of closure for a while. It had struggled for years with financial challenges, changes in leadership and plummeting enrollment.

It had 1,784 undergraduate and 670 graduate students in 2015, according to a Middle States report — a drop of nearly 50 percent from its 4,500 students in 2009.

The current cost to attend Dowling — including tuition, room and board and fees — ranged from $40,000 to $44,000 per academic year based on a 30-credit undergraduate course load, according to the college’s website.

In November 2014, the faculty union approved $4.7 million in contract givebacks to help close the school’s 2014-15 budget gap.

That same month, Dowling agreed to pay more than $400,000 to Robert Gaffney, the former Suffolk County executive who served as the college’s president from 2006 to 2010, in a settlement of his lawsuit against the Oakdale school. Gaffney’s lawsuit, filed in 2010, alleged that he was owed about $375,000, including interest.

Students and alumni seeking transcripts from the college should contact the New York State Education Department, according to the statement.