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Urban College covers $250,000 shortfall

Marie Renelique (left) and Oralee Canada applauded news Monday that the Urban College of Boston will open as planned in September.

Charlie Mahoney for The Boston Globe

Marie Renelique (left) and Oralee Canada applauded news Monday that the Urban College of Boston will open as planned in September.

The Urban College of Boston will welcome students for the fall semester, school officials announced Monday, assuaging fears, for now, that the two-year school that serves mostly low-income and immigrant women would close amid financial difficulties.

School officials announced Monday that the institution, located on Tremont Street, has ­received enough donations and pledges from several individuals and foundations to cover its $250,000 budget shortfall. The college said the donors wish to remain anonymous.

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“We’re going to open this fall and plan on opening the fall after that and the fall after that,” Peter Ebb, chairman of the school’s board of trustees, told about 70 cheering supporters, students, and teachers at a rally at the school Monday morning. “The Urban College of ­Boston is not going away.”

Ebb said the expected donations will give the school the time it needs to develop a long-term financial plan.

“We know that our business plan has to be based on more than [private donations],” said Ebb, pointing to plans to expand course offerings and to work with institutional donors to ­diversify the school’s funding.

The college, which opened in 1993 to offer low-cost classes to adults, suffered a financial blow when Congress chose not to reauthorize its $700,000 subsidy last year. That amounted to more than 25 percent of the college’s $2.5 million annual budget.

Action for Boston Community Development, an antipoverty group that gave rise to the college and continues to work closely with it, has provided $550,000. But in June, the New ­England Association of Schools and Colleges, an accrediting group, expressed concerns about the school’s financial situation and urged it not to admit a new class of students.

“All we have needed was time,’’ Robert Regan, the college’s president, said at the rally. “All we wanted to do and needed to do was to extend the runway just a little longer so we could achieve liftoff in a very powerful direction.”

Students and instructors at the school, which has an enrollment of 600, expressed joy after learning the school would not close.

“I’m just totally relieved and I’m happy,” said student Eva Jacobs, 43, of Dorchester.

Jacobs, who is studying for her associate degrees in general studies and human services, said she has lost sleep worrying about the future of the school that has provided her the academic and personal support she needed to make the transition back to the classroom.

“The staff, as well as the professors and instructors — they are a group of wonderful people,” she said. “They really do whatever they can to help people.”

Nancy Daniel, a psychology professor who has taught at the school since its inception, said the school is a vital resource for new students because of the personalized support it provides, which other associate ­degree programs may not offer.

“It would be a gaping hole in the lives of our students if this school wasn’t here,” Daniel said.

She said programs like the one that allows students to take classes in their native language while learning English are vital for students. More than one-third of students speak English as a second language.

“If we weren’t here, I don’t know if those dreams would go unfulfilled; I think they would,” she said.

The school’s supporters said they are focused on the work needed to support the school and the vulnerable community it serves.

“It is a reminder that for those things that we value, we have to have a sustainable effort in preserving and protecting them,” Ayanna Pressley, a member of the Boston City Council and of the ABCD board, said after the rally. “Now, we have to make sure we keep everyone’s attention focused on this institution moving forward.”

Johanna Kaiser can be reached at johanna.yourtown@
gmail.com. For more coverage of Boston’s neighborhoods and surrounding towns, go to
boston.com/yourtown.
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