- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

OAKDALE, N.Y. (AP) - Students at Dowling College waited in long lines for their transcripts Wednesday after the school announced it was closing at the end of the week.

The small liberal arts college on eastern Long Island has been struggling to survive for several years. President Albert Inserra said negotiations over the past few months aimed at finding an academic partner to keep it afloat had failed.

“This painful decision is a reflection of the unprecedented financial challenges facing countless private educational institutions across the nation and the difficult choices that many must now face,” he said Tuesday in a statement. A New York Board of Regents official said Dowling is about $54 million in debt.

Classes at Dowling had already ended for the spring semester.

Founded in 1968 by the philanthropist Robert Dowling, the college had two campuses on eastern Long Island. Its main home was in Oakdale on property once owned by the Vanderbilt family. It had schools of arts and sciences, aviation, education and business.

Despite Dowling’s struggles, some students said Wednesday that the closure took them by surprise.

“The whole thing was kind of shocking,” said Kimberly Spiciarich, a 20-year-old junior from Smithtown. “We were given a lot of hope there were buyers and it was going to stay open.”

Several Long Island institutions, including Adelphi, Hofstra and Stony Brook universities and Molloy and St. Joseph’s colleges, said they would work to accommodate Dowling students.

“Our doors are open for walk-in and scheduled appointments with our team of admissions counselors, offering personalized enrollment and transfer plans that fit all student needs and backgrounds,” said Kristen E. Capezza, executive director of university admissions at Adelphi.

Jessica Eads, vice president of enrollment management at Hofstra, said deadlines would be extended to help Dowling students transfer in time for the start of the fall semester.

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