Grantee shows how a struggling college in North Carolina is crumbling, in a cautionary tale

Graduates cross the lake at the May 2023 commencement. (Andrew Craft for The Assembly)

Like many struggling small colleges, North Carolina’s St. Andrews University has stayed open by deferring maintenance, living on credit and keeping quiet about problems to avoid scaring away students. Pam Kelley, writing for The Assembly with support from the Fund, found that this once-respected liberal arts college is a cautionary tale of what happens when survival becomes a college’s top priority. Kelley spent six months reporting the story, conducting 50 interviews with more than three dozen current and former staff, faculty, and students. She examined public documents, as well as faculty meeting minutes, emails and recordings that were shared with her. She found a crumbling campus, a diminished educational system and a student recruitment program that relies on athletes, including many whose low grades make them ineligible to play. St. Andrews’ chairman said it is trying to stay open because it cannot even afford to finance a closure. The story was co-published with The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Border Belt Independent.