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HEI President Dr. Mary Darden appears on WSFA’s “Alabama Live!”

Updated: May 21, 2021

An historic Baptist women’s college will soon join the ranks of other American colleges and universities that have closed in recent years.

Judson College, in Marion, Ala., will permanently close its doors in July.

The tiny, 183-year-old institution in Perry County, northwest of Selma, had seen declining enrollment for years and a dismal financial future that had only worsened due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Financial reasons are the No. 1 reason that colleges close and that is on the rise, as is the drop in traditional student enrollment,” Higher Education Innovation President Dr. Mary Landon Darden said. “And with retention problems – especially with COVID – a lot of colleges are finding themselves in this place.”

Darden appeared on WSFA 12 News’ “Alabama Live!” with host Sally Pitts on Tuesday to provide context to the school’s closure.

Darden said the country is seeing “a severe crisis” in higher education.

“We have waited too long to make the critical, radical transformations that are necessary for the success of and, unfortunately for colleges like Judson, it’s … too late. Colleges have got to the radical pivots that are necessary to survive.”

Darden said as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the trend toward teaching classes online will continue in the future.

“A lot of students found out that that’s very convenient for them,” Darden said. “Especially because the majority of the prospective student market is not traditional students. It is not the 18-22-year-old student who goes to school full time. The nontraditional market is 85 percent of the prospective market in the U.S. and most schools continue to market to traditional students.”

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