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Briarcliffe College President George Santiago stepping down

Dr. George Santiago, Jr., College President gives the

Dr. George Santiago, Jr., College President gives the welcome remarks today at the Briarcliffe College commencement held in Brentwood on May 17, 2014. Credit: Veronique Louis

The president of Briarcliffe College, which is closing in 2018, said Wednesday he is stepping down to seek another opportunity in higher education.

George Santiago, who has headed the Bethpage-based college for 12 years, said he will officiate at the school’s commencement on Saturday when 600 students graduate, then spend his final day at the helm on Monday.

The school, which also has a campus in Patchogue, did not announce a successor — that should be made public on Friday, Santiago said.

“In my heart of hearts it was just time to go,” Santiago, 55, said Wednesday. “It’s been a wonderful 12 years. We did a lot of wonderful things while I was president.”

“The trade winds just weren’t in our favor being a for-profit institution with the federal regulatory issues facing all of us and declining enrollments,” he added.

He noted that the school is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so “it hurts that we’re closing.”

Santiago declined to say where he will work next, but said he will remain on Long Island.

“I’m still a member of the Long Island community, so I’m still around,” he said. “I’ll be continuing to enjoy Long Island.”

Briarcliffe announced in early December that it will close its campuses by the end of 2018 and lay off all 294 employees. The decision came after the college’s Illinois-based owner, Career Education Corp., put the school up for sale in mid-2015 but could not finalize a deal.

The school had morphed over the years from a secretarial college to a trade and business school, to an institution offering four-year degrees in criminal justice and other studies.

But enrollment plunged by 50 percent in the past decade as the college bumped up against less expensive community colleges that have gained popularity in hard times. Briarcliffe tried to keep up with the times, including adding a curriculum in the booming health care industry.

The Bethpage campus is to lay off 171 workers and shutter by April 2018. Patchogue will lose 123 workers and close by December 2018.

The school graduated nearly 9,000 students in the 12 years Santiago headed it, he said.

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