Lincoln College forced to shut down following a ransomware attack
157 years after opening its doors to students, Lincoln College is forced to shut down following the COVID-19 pandemic and a devastating ransomware attack. A notice about the impending closure now greets visitors to the college’s official website. The Illinois Department of Higher Education and Higher Learning Commission has been informed about the incoming permanent closure, and all academic activities will cease at the end of the spring semester.
During its 157-year run, the college survived numerous devastating times, including the 1918 Spanish flu, the Great Depression, World War 2, and the 2008 financial crisis. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent ransomware attack have strained the college’s finances to the point where it can no longer operate.
A closure notice posted on the college’s official website explains that while the college experienced record-breaking student enrollment in the fall of 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic that soon followed dramatically impacted recruitment and fundraising efforts, sporting events, and all campus life activities. The institution’s financial position was also significantly impacted by students opting to postpone college or taking a leave of absence.
The December 2021 cyberattack targeting the college was the last blow to the already-struggling institution. The ransomware attack impacted admissions activities and prevented access to institutional data. According to the college, recruitment, retention, and fundraising effort systems were inoperable with systems being fully restored only in March 2022. It then became clear that transformational donation or partnership was necessary to allow Lincoln College to remain open.
According to Lincoln College President David Gerlach, the ransomware attack originated in Iran. He told Chicago Tribune the college was asked to pay an undisclosed sum of money (under $100,000) to regain access to their systems but even after making the payment, it took months to fully restore access.
Efforts were made to save the college, including a GoFundMe campaign and appeals to celebrities like Elon Musk. A donation of $50 million is necessary to save the college. However, it appears the efforts were unsuccessful as the college is expected to close its doors on May 13, 2022.
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