On the morning of July 17, the board of trustees of The King’s College announced that it would not offer classes this fall. Though the board clarified this was not an announcement of a permanent closure, at least for now the college is closing its doors, leaving its incredible staff and faculty to depart and find new vocations (many outside of Christian higher ed).
Like many other small Christian colleges across the country, King’s had been struggling financially the past few years following the Covid-19 pandemic, as students and parents reckoned with health and safety concerns and online degree alternatives. While it would be easy to cite Covid as the reason for King’s demise, in truth, it was only one coffin nail. And unlike many other small Christian colleges across the country, King’s chronic financial crises were due to challenges inherent to an institution whose mission was inextricably linked to its location in New York City.
Originally founded in Belmar, New Jersey, in 1938, The King’s College has fought for survival in the heart of New York City from 1999 on. Its mission is to transform society by raising up virtuous students who were “good, brave, and ready” and would go on to “lead strategic and private institutions.” Over the past 24 years, King’s developed a liberal arts curriculum with a core of politics, philosophy, and economics, founded on a Biblical worldview. This curriculum, paired with its strategic location within a global hub of finance, art, and culture, enabled King’s to offer a unique opportunity to ambitious students.
For nearly its first 20 years in the city, King’s struggled to gain a foothold in New York’s brutal real estate market. Rent made up a massive proportion of King’s operating overhead, not just for classrooms and administrative spaces, but also its “on-campus” student housing. For over a decade, King’s held classes in the basement of the Empire State Building, before moving catty-cornered to the New York Stock Exchange in 2012.
I attended King’s from 2013 to 2017. After graduating, I joined the student development staff, overseeing student housing operations while also supporting student experience programs and serving as an associate advisor to student leaders. I cared deeply for the mission of the college and relished the opportunity to invest in students the way my advisors had invested in me.
At the end of my first year as housing manager, in the summer of 2018, King’s received a generous donation that enabled it to acquire its first piece of New York real estate, a five-story residential building on Greenwich Street that would serve as a dormitory for around 70 students. At the time of acquisition, there were also plans to lease out retail space on the first floor.
However, with the acquisition came the cost of converting the nearly 100-year-old building into a functional dormitory. The college sank hundreds of thousands of dollars into mold remediations, roof replacements, and general repairs and renovations. This was all done with the belief that in the years to come, the school would start to turn a profit.
Those years would not come. Like at other schools in America, King’s on-campus operations ground to a halt in March of 2020. As the 2020–2021 academic year approached, freshman enrollment was at an all-time low. King’s tried to implement remote and hybrid learning models, but such an arrangement proved incompatible with the school’s biggest selling point: its location. Prospective students weren’t interested in a partial or fully online learning model, and shied away from moving to such a densely populated area in the middle of the pandemic.
The following academic year, King’s was in crisis mode. Looking to ease some of its operating costs, the college paused faculty contract renewals and outsourced entire departments to Primacorps Ventures, a Canadian education company. Primacorps planned to implement an online program that it promised would bring in thousands of new students within three to five years.
In less than two years, Primacorps had failed to deliver on its lofty promises and likely snuffed out King’s last hopes of survival. The college faltered after President Tim Gibson’s unexpected departure in the fall of 2022. He was replaced by Stockwell Day, a former Canadian politician with Primacorps associations. King’s and Primacorps ended their partnership in April 2023; Primacorps’s board spots were vacated and President Day resigned shortly after. Primacorps founder Peter Chung extended King’s a $2 million bridge loan to allow it to finish the 2022–2023 academic year.
By this point, things had gotten ugly. When King’s fell behind on paying rent, past due notices were posted on students’ apartment doors. The one dorm King’s owned sat vacant less than five years after its acquisition, listed on the market for a fraction of its purchase price.
King’s began a desperate fundraising campaign to “Save King’s,” with full acknowledgement of its dire situation. Some alumni, including Sadie Elliott (’17), started campaigns within their own graduating class, asking old classmates to make a pledge to try to save their alma mater. Over 130 current students, alumni, staff, and faculty participated in the TKC Letters Project, hoping to impress upon potential donors the positive impact that King’s had had on their lives and the world.
The need was simply too great, and King’s was out of time. The college managed to finish the semester and the class of 2023 was able to graduate, but when classes ended for the summer it was unclear whether they would resume in the fall. Well into the summer, the board stated that it was working through issues with accreditation and held out hope for the resumption of classes in the fall semester. At this stage, even the most devoted faculty were making backup plans.
When the board finally announced in mid-July that King’s would not hold classes this fall, it prompted disappointment but not surprise. In the same message, the board stated that faculty and administrative positions would be reduced or eliminated (staff and faculty directories have been removed from its website). Currently, it seems King’s will maintain its charter and continue to fight the accreditation battle, and the board will continue to explore partnerships with other out-of-state Christian colleges in hopes of reopening.
Though King’s has faltered, it may yet be resurrected. Whatever solution the board considers, King’s is not King’s if it exists anywhere else in the world. The nature of its mission precludes a campus in Minnesota, Texas, or even New Jersey. If King’s is to live again, it’s New York or nowhere.