Antioch College to Close Doors Unless Buyer Pays $12M

Cash-strapped Antioch College has rejected an alumni group's fundraising offer, moving ahead with plans to shutter its doors this summer unless a buyer offers more than $12 million up front, a school spokeswoman said Sunday.

A group of wealthy alumni and former trustees scrambled to raise money after the school announced last year that because of declining enrollment, heavy dependence on tuition and a small endowment the college would close to reorganize and reopen in 2012.

The group, called the Antioch College Continuation Corp., offered to pay half of the $12.2 million price over five years to take over operations and keep the school running.

Despite months of negotiations, Antioch University trustees declined the offer on Friday and announced it would move ahead with its plan to close its flagship college on June 30 for at least a year.

"They were requesting the university to be their banker," Toni Murdock, chancellor of the university, said on Friday. "It would have put the university on the cliff as far as jeopardizing its financial future.

"Antioch is open to negotiations with any potential buyer that can provide all of the money at closing, said Antioch University spokeswoman Lynda Sirk.

If the trustees feel "they can work out the financing on $12.2 million, the rest is definitely workable," Sirk said.

The alumni group said it had raised $18 million, primarily in pledges, to operate the college in the short term. It said it was preparing to begin a fundraising drive to raise a total of $100 million and was working on a five-year plan to increase enrollment and staffing.

"We are deeply disappointed that the university did not take this incredible opportunity to preserve Antioch College, which has long been one of the nation's most unique and important institutions of higher education," said Frances Degen Horowitz, co-chair of the alumni group.

About 200 students are enrolled at the southwestern Ohio college known for its pioneering academic programs that produce students with a passion for free thinking and social activism. Famous alumni included "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling, Coretta Scott King and evolutionary scientist Stephen Jay Gould.

The university has campuses in Yellow Springs and Seattle, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Calif., and Keene, N.H.

Antioch College, which costs $36,000 a year to attend, was founded in 1852 and located about 15 miles east of Dayton. It doesn't grade classes, encourages students to develop their own study plans and combines academic learning with experience through a co-op program in which students leave campus to work in various fields.