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The College That Refused to Die

The College That Refused to Die

The Assembly

Pam Kelley
August 16, 2023
This story is co-published with The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Border Belt Independent, with financial support from The Fund for Investigative Journalism. 
On a Sunday morning in May, St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C., kicked off graduation exercises with bagpipes—an apt tradition for a college in Scotland County. The sound, distant at first, grew clear and strong as a piper led the class of 2023 toward a waiting audience.
The mood was joyous. The campus lake sparkled against a blue sky, and with each diploma awarded, families snapped photos, applauded, called out names. At one point, students were so boisterous that Tarun Malik, the campus president, suggested they settle down.
Malik was a newcomer, hired in March after his predecessor’s abrupt departure. He offered the graduates an upbeat message: The college was ushering in a new chapter, and “together we can deal with challenge and great change.”
Behind the scenes, however, Malik was trying to keep the school afloat. Enrollment had dropped to 520 on-campus students, down from 630 the previous year. Trustees were discussing closing the college if fall enrollment didn’t rebound.
St. Andrews had teetered near closure several times before, notably in the late 2000s, after financial problems cost the school its accreditation. It survived only because a Florida college, Webber International University, acquired it in 2011.
Since then, the liberal arts college had slashed liberal arts offerings while adding career-focused majors, online classes, and so many sports teams that athletes now made up most of the student body.
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