Mayor of Lincoln: Community will survive ‘devastating blow’ of college closure

The mayor of Lincoln said Thursday the loss of Lincoln College was a “devastating blow” to the Logan County community.

After 157 years, the college will close in May when school ends, while nearby Lincoln Christian University is shrinking its footprint by going mostly virtual, Mayor Tracy Welch said.

“When two of your three higher education institutions report closing or downsizing within 45 days, that will definitely have an impact,” Welch said, adding that, for now, he wants to focus on employees. and Lincoln College students.

“Looking to attract economic development activity, whether it’s employment opportunities elsewhere, certain benefits, whatever we may be able to offer. So some transitional elements,” Welch said.

The mayor said he has already begun discussions with area lawmakers and economic development officials about how to return after the shutdown.

“I think Lincoln will definitely survive. We’re a community and we’ll come back from this loss like we’ve had others in the past. It may take us a while,” Welch said.

The campus is well located, he said, and would be attractive for another use, although he is not yet aware of the college’s plans to manage the land.

“For the past two years, the college has installed a solar farm and they have a lot of dormitories. I think the possibilities aren’t endless, but there are a lot of possibilities,” Welch said.

He said the recreation center could have multiple uses, and he wants to ensure the world-renowned Lincoln Heritage Museum continues to operate. It was part of the college budget until now.

Welch acknowledged that the closure could make the task of economic development more difficult because only Heartland Community College is left with a significant higher education presence in the community.

“I think that impact is driven by our focus on attracting other businesses in the meantime. But it’s going to be hard to make up for that loss, that’s for sure,” Welch said, acknowledging the loss of about $1. 000 students. is more than the dollars they spend in town.

“We’ve been working with this student population for some time to welcome them into the community, help them find jobs, help connect them with employers who are looking for the help they can provide,” Welch said.

He also said the college played a key role in Lincoln’s cultural life.

“The student population brings diversity to the community, and they are welcome. I think we all learn by sharing different points of view,” Welch said. “They are an essential part of the success of our community, just like the people who have lived here all their lives.

Over the years, he said the city of Lincoln has asked several departments to connect with the college and its students.

James C. Tibbs