A university that originally opened its doors the same year that the American Civil War ended will shut down later this month. Lincoln College administrators have put the blame on a ransomware attack, which they say hindered admissions and fundraising activities during a period when the school was already struggling.
Lincoln, a private, predominantly Black university that originally opened in 1865, plans to close on May 13. Based in Illinois, the rural college has suffered from financial troubles in recent years, including a shrinking endowment and dropping enrollment rates due to Covid-19. However, a cyberattack by a ransomware gang in December delivered the finishing blow to the school, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The gang’s attack encrypted important data, making it difficult for administrators to manage their “recruitment, retention and fund-raising campaigns,” administrators wrote in a statement recently published to the school’s website.
“Lincoln College was a victim of a cyberattack in December 2021 that thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data, creating an unclear picture of Fall 2022 enrollment projections. All systems required for recruitment, retention, and fundraising efforts were inoperable,” the admins wrote.
“You can’t get your admissions applications into the system, you can’t recruit students,” Lincoln’s president, David Gerlach elaborated to EdScoop in April, claiming that the attack put admissions activities “out of operation for a month and a half.”
The university’s students have been engaged in activism and fundraising activities in an effort to save the school. A GoFundMe was recently launched, with the hopes of raising $20 million. However, as of Monday, the page had only garnered 19 donations, totaling $1,252.
Ransomware attacks on educational institutions have become a nationwide epidemic in recent years. Schools are natural targets for attacks, as they store large amounts of information (personal, academic, and financial), and schools have a track record of low IT budgets and poor security practices, which can make them easy prey. The cybersecurity firm Emsisoft has reported that 1,043 schools were struck by ransomware last year, including 26 colleges.