Dowling College, the debt-ridden liberal arts school that has stayed open with a bare-bones staff since June, has officially filed for closure with state and federal regulators, a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.
“The college ceases to be an educational institution at the end of the day on Aug. 31, which is when they are no longer accredited,” said Nancy Sterling, a vice president with the communications division of Mintz Levin, the Boston-based law firm involved in the private school’s operations.
Earlier in the day, Dowling officials notified the state Education Department, the U.S. Department of Education, the state attorney general’s office and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the accrediting agency, Sterling said.
The agencies “were sent emails and were the recipients of follow-up phone calls,” she said.
The notifications followed a unanimous vote Friday by Dowling’s board of trustees to close the 48-year-old college, Sterling said. She declined to provide details about the vote, including the number of board members who are responsible for the school’s governance.
The Middle States Commission, which measures the quality of more than 500 colleges and universities, took action at its June 23 meeting to withdraw Dowling’s accreditation as of Aug. 31. Loss of accreditation means a school’s students no longer may be eligible for federal and state financial aid.
Richard Pokrass, a spokesman for Philadelphia-based Middle States, said Dowling officially notified his organization on Wednesday. Calls and email messages to officials at the state Education Department, which has been monitoring the school, were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Dowling has been winding down operations at its Oakdale and Shirley campuses after months of unsuccessful efforts to save the school through a deal with Global University Systems, or GUS, an educational investment firm based in the United Kingdom.
The college, which is carrying $54 million in long-term debt, had little cash to sustain its day-to-day operations when on May 31 it abruptly announced plans to close. School officials set two different closure dates — June 3 and June 8 — then reversed course, keeping a handful of offices open at the Oakdale campus and hoping negotiations with GUS would prove successful.
More than 450 faculty and staff were laid off, and about 1,600 students have spent much of their summer seeking out degree programs at other colleges and universities.
Because Dowling did not officially close earlier, there was no trigger for an official “teach-out” plan giving the authority to nearby schools to complete Dowling’s program requirements. Instead, Dowling arranged partnerships with LIU Post and five other colleges that agreed to take a majority of Dowling students’ credits.
About 50 to 60 students are eligible for graduation in August, Sterling said.
Those students have until Aug. 15 to apply for graduation through the school. Their Dowling College degrees would be mailed directly to them, according to information on the college’s website.
Until earlier this week, May graduates hadn’t yet received their diplomas. The diploma vendor, Michael Sutter Co., had not been paid until Monday. The diploma company issued students digital versions Monday morning and, when Dowling’s balance was satisfied, said it would mail those graduates their diplomas.
On June 30, the college’s yearlong forbearance agreement with its major creditors had expired. A certified public accountant from the Manhattan firm CohenReznick had been responsible for the day-to-day operations of the school.
College officials are in the process of working with its secured creditors to monetize Dowling’s assets, Sterling said.
In addition to its main base in Oakdale — a former Vanderbilt waterfront estate — Dowling owns an expansive campus off of William Floyd Parkway in Shirley, used for its aviation school, and about two dozen residential properties in the Oakdale and Mastic area.