SILVER SPRING, Md. (PAI Union News Service) — The National Labor College (NLC) in Silver Spring, Maryland — the only college in the United States with an exclusive mission to serve the educational needs of the labor movement — will close this year because of financial difficulties.
“I am deeply saddened to report that the Board of Trustees directed me and the college’s officers to develop a plan to close the college,” the institution’s president, Dr. Paula Peinovich, said in a statement posted on its website. “The college has been facing significant financial difficulties, and the board reluctantly decided to accept the inevitability of our closure.”
Peinovich said NLC will offer a spring semester from Jan. 6 to April 18, 2014, with a full range of courses for the 260 students already registered. [Last fall the college had 599 online students.] The college still is exploring the option of an 18 month teach-out, whereby students could take courses at other institutions and transfer them back to NLC.
NLC will hold a commencement and closing convocation ceremony on April 26, 2014.
The labor college has been an independent, degree-granting institution for 17 years, tracing its history back to the George Meany Center for Labor Studies.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Peinovich said the college became burdened by debt incurred in a major renovation at its 47-acre campus that began in 2003. Part of that renovation included the construction of a 72,000-square-foot conference center named for Lane Kirkland, the late AFL-CIO president.
The center, dedicated in 2007, was unable to generate enough revenue to erase the debt, Peinovich said, and even failed to cover its own operating costs.
Peinovich, who came out of retirement to run NLC after previously running a private for-profit online college, said the college owed about $30 million when she took over in 2010.
At the time of her hiring, she was the college’s fourth president in five years.
There had also been high turnover in other top administrative offices.
NLC employed 58 faculty and staff members and had an annual operating budget of $12 million, Peinovich said. Most of the full-time faculty, represented by the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, took buyouts when the college offered them. The Guild also represents part-time faculty there.
The AFL-CIO and individual unions are the college’s primary financial support, with the labor federation contributing about $5 million a year. The AFL-CIO also has provided bridge loans to the college in recent years.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the federation’s Executive Council during a meeting at the college several years ago that the fed could not continue subsidizing the NLC. Trumka also chairs the college’s board of trustees.
In 2012, trustees put the campus up for sale and planned to make the college an entirely online institution.
The Washington Post reported Dec. 19 that college trustees had approved a letter of intent to sell the 47-acre campus to Monument Realty. A sale price has not been announced, but proceeds will help cover the college’s debts.