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The Boston Globe


Why some small colleges are in big trouble

Money is tight. Competition is brutal. Are some Massachusetts schools on the road to ruin?

THE CHAIRS AND TABLES in the dining hall at Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster are lined up neatly, as if lunch is about to be served. But the doors are locked, the giant clock on the wall has stopped, and the notice on the window is anything but welcoming: “This building has been secured and is off-limits until further notice.”

This 129-year-old campus, just northeast of Worcester, looks like that of any other Massachusetts private college: tidy red-brick buildings with white trim and arched windows behind stone walls overhung by ancient trees. On closer inspection, however, many of the window frames are bent, the paint is peeling, and there’s little sign of life but for the songs of birds.

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