Manhattan College needs transparency


Alliance University (formerly Nyack College). The King’s College. The College of Saint Rose. Medaille University. These are all nonprofit institutes of higher education that closed their doors in 2023.

The one thing they had in common was financial issues due to declining enrollment since Covid. It raises the question of how many schools may be next as the 2024 spring semester gets started.

Locally Manhattan College, the 170-year-old Lasallian school that has called Riverdale home since 1922, is showing signs of financial distress. Overall enrollment has fallen since 2019.

Here is the breakdown for 2019-2022, according to the New York state education department:

• 2018-2019: 4,232 students
• 2019-2020: 4,232 students
• 2020-2021: 3,965 students
• 2021-2022: 3,569 students

According to Pro Publica, as for the school’s financials, here is how it fared over the same time period (note that 2021-2022 showed a huge increase in net income, possibly due to the sale of assets):

• 2018-2019: $5.7 million (net income), $217.5 million (revenue)
• 2019-2020: $4.26 million (net income), $214 million (revenue)
• 2020-2021: $890,258 (net income), $212 million (revenue)
• 2021-2022: $8 million (net income), $222 million (revenue)

As these figures show a worrisome trend for Manhattan College, the school’s board of trustees decided to take some action. For starters, it named a new chief executive in Milo Riverso as well as a new vice president for finance/chief financial officer in James Perrino and a new vice president for enrollment management in Karen Vahey.

Among the actions the new management team has set in place are the reorganization of its six schools into three different departments: the Kakos School of Arts and Sciences, the O’Malley School of Business, and the School of Engineering. The School of Liberal Arts, School of Health Professions and School of Continuing and Professional Studies will now be part of and housed in the new Kakos School of Arts and Sciences.

Just prior to that announcement, the college announced it had sold Overlook Manor, a former dorm, to the Stagg Group, a local developer, for $18 million. The former 95-unit, 400-bed dorm is being turned into a shelter for migrants that is being operated by Yonkers-based Westhab Inc.

The most recent move Riverso and the board have taken is elimination and consolidation of majors and minors with low enrollment. That led to the termination of 23 faculty members, 19 of whom were tenured professors, on Jan. 12. Many of those professors and faculty will stay on until the end of the spring semester. Those layoffs followed smaller waves last year. In total, 62 of 225, or about 25 percent of the total faculty members, have received termination notices since June 2023, according to the college’s student newspaper The Quadrangle.

Based on the financials, it’s obvious the college has not recovered from the Covid epidemic shutdown of 2020 when all classes were virtual and campus was closed.

While no one can blame anyone in particular for the circumstances that have led to Manhattan College’s troubles, it is imperative the school reach out to its alumni, current students, elected officials and surrounding neighborhood for help.

The school has been a part of Riverdale’s history for about a century. It is an important institution that educates students near and far while reaching out and helping their greater Riverdale neighbors.

According to interviews of students and alum conducted by The Quadrangle, they want more transparency about what is happening to their beloved institution before it’s too late. They don’t want to say they went to a school that has become obsolete before they even have a chance to start their careers.

And let’s not forget what Manhattan College is built upon. It’s a proud Lasallian school. That means it was founded by the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a teacher order started by Saint John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of teachers.

According to Manhattan College itself, “the word ‘Lasallian’ is derived from De La Salle’s name, but is much more than just a label. The Lasallian mission drives everything we do. It’s an integral part of who we are and how we live.”

The current administration should remember those words as it makes the next decisions to keep the college afloat. That also means more inclusion from stakeholders when making those decisions.

Manhattan College, enrollment, financials, net income, layoffs, tenure, professors, majors, minors, Pro Publica