What to Do if My College Closes

BestColleges.com reports that at least 47 public or nonprofit colleges have closed, merged, or announced imminent closures since March 2020. Meanwhile, as operating expenses increase and demographics change, Higher Ed Dive predicts that more closures loom on the horizon.

Unfortunately, if your education plans have been put on hold due to your college or university closing, you’re not alone. You might be wondering what happens when a college closes and what your next steps should be. With some practical information and a few actionable tips in mind, you can get your education back on track—even after the initial shock and frustration of a college closure.

Causes of College Closures

What causes a college or university to close, anyway? Numerous factors can come into play. For many schools, closures are a result of low enrollment numbers. Without enough students paying tuition and fees, schools may lack the funds needed to support their facilities. Eventually, the school will inevitably need to close its doors.

Another common cause of colleges closing is difficulty achieving or retaining accreditation. If lacking proper accreditation, it may be difficult for a college or university to attract and enroll students. Likewise, schools without accreditation may be unable to offer financial aid, which can make the situation even more dire.

What Happens When a College Closes?

No two situations are exactly alike when it comes to college closures. In some cases, students are given plenty of notice about an impending closure—along with resources to help them find comparable programs from other colleges or universities. It may sometimes be possible for students to finish out their semesters in their current programs, but not always. In other (more unfortunate) cases, closures may essentially occur overnight with little to no warning.

Regardless of how much notice you receive, when a college closes, you typically have a grace period of six months to pay off any federal loans you may have borrowed. This is the most critical thing to remember and understand, as failure to pay student loans when they are due could result in accrual of interest, additional penalties, and even defaulting on your loans.

What Students Should Do if Their College Closes

If you’ve just found out your college or university will be closing, you’re probably wondering what to do next. The Department of Education and Federal Student Aid office have some helpful tips (along with an up-to-date list of closed schools across the United States), but there are a few steps you can take now to get your education back on track as quickly as possible.

Get Copies of Records and Transcripts

Typically, when a college closes, the school keeps a system in place for students to access their transcripts and records even after the school officially closes its doors. However, it’s always a good idea for students to obtain official copies for themselves as soon as the closure announcement is made.

Records and transcripts will be necessary if you plan to transfer to a new school. Regardless, you want to have these records on file for your own reference. By getting copies now, you won’t have to stress about trying to obtain them later.

Determine Which Credits Can Be Transferred

More than likely, you would be able to transfer some (or all) of your college credits to another school. This would essentially allow you to pick up where you left off on your studies.

Of course, different schools and programs may have varying requirements in place related to transfer credits. This is why it’s wise to look at your current credits and determine which ones may be transferable. Usually, general education courses are easily transferable, but you may have a harder time with more advanced or specialized courses.

Accreditation can also be a deciding factor regarding how easily credits would transfer, so this is something to be aware of with your current program as well.

Know if There Are Teach-Out Options

In some scenarios, a teach-out option may be offered when a school closes. Specifically, a teach-out option occurs when another school or institution offers opportunities for students of the closing school to finish out their program regardless of academic progress at the time of closure.

To learn about potential teach-out options, get in touch with your school’s administration (if possible). You might also consider contacting other local colleges and universities to see if they offer any teach-out options for your previous college.

Review Your Financial Aid Options

If you have an outstanding student loan (or loans), be aware of any grace periods or repayment requirements that may apply to you after your school closes. For federal loans, the grace period is typically six months, but there may be other options worth exploring, too.

For example, if you wish to forfeit the credits you have already earned, you might have the option to discharge your federal student loans through loan forgiveness. The best way to find out your options is to contact your loan service directly.

Research Different Colleges

If you plan to continue your education beyond your school’s closure, you should start researching other colleges as soon as possible. Ideally, you’d want to find a college or university that offers a comparable program to the one in which you were already enrolled. From there, you’ll want to set up a meeting with advisors from your top school picks to determine which of your credits will be transferable. This would help you make the most informed decision possible regarding which program and school is right for you.

Transfer to a New College

Once you’ve decided on the new school that best suits your needs, lifestyle, and budget, you’re ready to complete your transfer. This would require you to fill out an application with your new school and complete any necessary paperwork to finalize the transfer of your existing credits. From there, depending on the school and your own preferences, you may be able to jump right into the current semester or wait until the next semester.

Complete Your Education at Excelsior University

Facing an unexpected school closure can be both frustrating and stress-inducing, especially if you were nearing graduation when the closure was announced. The good news is that you always have the power to take control of your own future.

If you’re interested in completing your degree with a university that supports you at every step of your academic journey, Excelsior University has you covered with a wide selection of degree programs and areas of study. Plus, our knowledgeable admissions counselors are always happy to help you find out whether any relevant transfer credits from your existing program can apply to an Excelsior degree program.

Learn more about degree programs at Excelsior University or get started by filling out your application today!