I just graduated from a Christian college on Wall Street, and it's on the verge of going under.
The King's College is a tiny, private liberal arts school located in New York City's Financial District. Adjacent to the New York Stock Exchange and a short stroll from the famous Charging Bull, the college gets plenty of foot traffic but largely goes unnoticed. The entire campus is contained within three floors of a non-descript high-rise.
But now the school is grabbing national headlines as it's on the brink of closing due to a drop in enrollment and financial troubles. It needs $2.6 million just to finish the spring semester.
King's seemed like the perfect escape from my small-town childhood in rural Pennsylvania.
The school offered both a tight-knit community and the big city. And as an Asian woman who grew up in white, conservative Christian spaces, I didn't feel out of place in a student body that was predominantly white.
But I quicky found the school to have a dualistic culture that was offputting. King's is unlike other Christian colleges that are typically in rural areas or on the outskirts of larger, more conservative cities. As a result, the school draws a mixed crowd — those who come to King's for the city and those who come to King's for King's.
I'm embarrassed to have gone to King's, now more than ever. I graduated this winter feeling disillusioned by the whole experience and, honestly, I think it had it coming.
'Don't just go to college, come to King's'
So how does a small, Christian school end up in the heart of the country's largest city?
That's part of the school's pitch. It touts the best way to change culture is by engaging with it directly — to be "in the world" but not "of the world," as the Bible teaches. King's mission is to prepare students "for careers in which they help to shape and eventually to lead strategic public and private institutions" by way of a classical education taught through a Christian worldview.
In many ways, it achieved that goal. King's alumni work at financial-services companies, including Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and Fidelity. Meanwhile, others cover finance at publications including Insider, Fortune, and the New York Post.
The school was even a beneficiary of Archegos Capital Management founder Bill Hwang's philanthropic arm, the Grace and Mercy Foundation. In 2021, Hwang was at the center of a high-profile Wall Street implosion in which he was charged with fraud and racketeering. He is currently awaiting trial.
Hwang's charity was perhaps most notable among the student body for funding the free Chick-fil-A the school offered at its weekly Public Reading of Scripture. When the free chicken sandwiches disappeared, so, too, did the students.
There are two kinds of King's students: those who just go to King's and those who are "King's people."
The former tend to dissociate from "Kingsian" culture, which is ironic given one of the school's marketing campaigns is entirely focused around the phrase, "Don't just go to college, come to King's." The latter truly love the school and its mission. They seek to embody the school's words — "good, brave, and ready."
Adherence to the honor code is the best example of the duality of the school.
Students can report their peers for violating school rules, which includes everything from underage drinking or drug possession to engaging in sexual activity or violating the school's business-casual dress code. It is meant to promote integrity and virtue within the student body, but in actuality, it creates an environment of petty tattle-taling and distrust between students.
King's didn't live up to its promise to 'engage culture'
I give some credit to King's. In class, I was challenged to wrestle with concepts I naively thought I already understood, like political ideology and religion. Through my education, I was motivated to question my beliefs, correct my ignorance, and address my misgivings. But I found many of my peers wouldn't truly consider the merit of the opinions that differed from their own.
My shift in mindset — and my peers unwillingness to see the other side of things — opened my eyes to what I considered narrow-mindedness being fostered in King's classrooms. For as much as the school looks to "engage culture," I found that its religious and political views resulted in an insular student body largely ignorant and apathetic to the people and struggles right outside its campus doors.
Through its Christian worldview, King's teaches students to resist secular culture. A symptom of that teaching is the belief that mainstream media is the purveyor of anti-Christian sentiment.
As a journalism major, I was heavily involved with the student newspaper, the Empire State Tribune. To agree to be an editor of the newspaper was to sign on as a target of antagonism from faculty and a point of contention among the student body.
In one instance, one professor emailed my journalism advisor, calling me and a fellow editor "lazy" and "incompetent" over an article that was fairly reported and unbiased.
The hard switch in my attitude came in 2021. I quickly saw that the school was unwilling — in the best cases, slow — to respond to the issues affecting students of color, such as the spike in violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic.
It wasn't until two weeks following the deadly Atlanta Spa shootings that King's began to coordinate any sort of statement or organize resources for its Asian American Pacific Islander students. Even then, the response itself was student-led and spurred by students, including myself, who emailed administration and posted on social media to garner attention.
For all its faults, I don't want King's to shut down
And now the college is on the brink of collapse.
King's advised current students to look into transferring. Some professors are leaving after this semester, and others have posted their CVs on LinkedIn looking for work.
A bid for help from the school to alumni, parents, and prospective donors raised over $325,000 as of March 3, according to a spokesperson for the school.
"We are deeply grateful for the generosity and support of our community. It has also been incredible to see how the student body has come together, encouraging one another towards prayer and proactively coming up with positive fundraising initiatives, like the beautiful TKC Letters Project," the spokesperson told Insider via email.
The school reportedly received a $2 million loan from Peter Chung, CEO of Primacorp Ventures, that will cover faculty and staff's salaries for the rest of the semester. But it appears to be a short-term solution, as the loan doesn't cover the two months of back-rent owed for the apartments it leases as "on-campus" housing.
King's has gone down this road before. The school, then located at Briarcliff Manor in upstate New York, experienced financial troubles that ultimately led to its closure in 1994. It resurrected itself five years later in the basement of the Empire State Building before it was pushed out by the building's management and moved to its current Financial District campus in 2012.
So at a college where I felt unheard, unseen, and, at times, even antagonized as a result of its conservative ideologies, I can't say I'm proud to have gone to King's.
All that being said, and this may come as a shock, I don't want the school to close.
Watching my alma mater not-so-slowly but surely go down the drain isn't easy. I met some of my best friends at King's, and I have fond memories from those three, transformative years.
I don't want the college to close, but I do think they had it coming for the ideals and people it pedestaled and the others it squashed.
At the end of the day, I'm just glad I got out in time.
Read the original article on Business Insider