A US college is shutting down for good following a ransomware attack

Lincoln College was unable to access recruitment and fundraising systems for months.

Tom Merton via Getty Images

Lincoln College says it will close this week in the wake of a ransomware attack that took months to resolve. While the impact of COVID-19 severely impacted activities such as recruitment and fundraising, the cyberattack seems to have been the tipping point for the Illinois institution.

The college has informed the Illinois Department of Higher Education and Higher Learning Commission that it will permanently close as of May 13th. As NBC News notes, it's the first US college or university to shut down in part because of a ransomware attack.

Lincoln says it had "record-breaking student enrollment" in fall 2019. However, the pandemic caused a sizable fall in enrollment with some students opting to defer college or take a leave of absence. The college — one of only a few rural schools to qualify as a predominantly Black institution under the Department of Education — said those affected its financial standing.

Last December, Lincoln was hit by a cyberattack, which "thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data, creating an unclear picture of fall 2022 enrollment. All systems required for recruitment, retention and fundraising efforts were inoperable," the college said in a statement posted on its homepage. "Fortunately, no personal identifying information was exposed. Once fully restored in March 2022, the projections displayed significant enrollment shortfalls, requiring a transformational donation or partnership to sustain Lincoln College beyond the current semester."

Barring a last-minute respite, the one-two punch of the pandemic and a cyberattack have brought an end to a 157-year-old institution. Lincoln says it will help students who aren't graduating this semester transfer to another college.

Over the last few years, ransomware hackers have attacked other educational facilities, as well as hospitals, game studios, Sinclair Broadcast Group and many other companies and institutions.