Dowling College, the 48-year-old liberal arts school in Suffolk County, will cease operations and close its doors effective Friday afternoon after failed 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 a spokesman just before 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“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.”

On Tuesday afternoon — which would have been the start of the college’s summer session — the student parking lot was empty on the Oakdale campus, although buildings were open and staffed. The college, which is more than $54 million in debt, announced on its website that summer classes also were canceled.

College officials now are responsible for implementing a “teach-out” plan to ensure students transition to other colleges and universities. Dowling officials were required to file such a plan by March 1 with its accrediting agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in Philadelphia. The college’s accreditation status was to be discussed at the next meeting of the full commission June 23.

Late Tuesday, officials with Molloy College, a 4,600-student private college in Rockville Centre, announced that the college is working with Dowling to assist Dowling students. A transition counseling center will be established and managed by Molloy and will be available to Dowling students starting Wednesday to help them make decisions on how to complete their degrees.

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“This is a sad day for everyone at Dowling and, indeed, all of Long Island,” said Molloy College President Drew Bogner. “Our focus at Molloy will be on the affected students; therefore, Molloy is coordinating the development and implementation of a program designed to help Dowling students complete their education and earn their degrees with as little disruption as possible.”

Students and alumni seeking their academic records will be able to retrieve them from the New York State Education Department, state and college officials said. The state education department is responsible for ensuring transcripts are permanently maintained and stored.

“We will work with the remaining Dowling staff and their students and regional colleges to try and make sure the students have access to their student records, and work to ensure they have the information they need to make the best choice to continue their education,” said Jeanne Beattie, an education department spokeswoman.

When colleges or universities close, the education department provides guidance and information to help close while also protecting students, a state official said.

The education department requests that the closing college notify current and prospective students; faculty; media; creditors; local, state and federal agencies; accrediting agencies; and neighboring institutions, the official said.

Dowling has been on the brink of closure for a while. Dowling officials had been in talks with several institutions the past few months, including an education investment company based in the United Kingdom, sources had said.

Last week, state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), chairman of the Higher Education committee, revealed the school’s situation was so dire that it nearly canceled the Class of 2016’s commencement, held on the field at its Brookhaven campus May 21.

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.

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The school 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 most recent 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. It was unclear Tuesday how many faculty and staff would be impacted by the college’s closure.

Also in November 2014, 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 he was owed about $375,000, including interest.

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“It is my firm belief that the history of Dowling College cannot be dismissed, forgotten or marginalized. Through our students and alumni, Dowling’s legacy will continue for decades to come,” Inserra said. “We are enormously proud of them, their achievements here at Dowling and their career successes. We hope we have helped them on their road to a better and brighter future.”

Inserra was unavailable for further questions Tuesday.