The abrupt news that McNally College of Music will close in two weeks brought an outpouring of dismay Thursday night from students who had just received an e-mail titled "Very sad day" from the downtown St. Paul college's administration.
"Dear students, it is with deep regret that we are writing to you to inform you that McNally Smith College of Music must discontinue all course offerings at the end of this fall semester, 2017," college President Harry Chalmiers wrote in the e-mail. "... We sincerely wish you all the best and are deeply sorry for this highly disappointing situation for all of us."
Faculty and staff members were told in an e-mail from Board Chairman Jack McNally that the college does not have enough money to make payroll on Dec. 15.
"The college is going to close," Chalmiers said. "Payroll will not be met tomorrow. The owners have stated that they are 'committed to making good on the wages owed to you and will do so as soon as we possibly can.' "
E-mails sent to the McNally community said the college has suffered from declining enrollment and falling revenue for several years. Administrators said the school had been working toward nonprofit status, but was not able to secure financing.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman lauded the college and lamented its closing in a Facebook post, writing that it was a "critical partner for many years as we have developed a vibrant downtown with arts centering the rebirth."
"A generation of artists have been nurtured and developed within the walls of the school. Young musicians have found a place to develop their talent. I am deeply saddened by McNally Smith's closure," Coleman wrote.
On Thursday evening, students flooded social media with expressions of disappointment and anger directed at the college's administration. Many said they had only a few credits left before graduation and that their future is now in limbo. McNally course credits aren't easily transferrable and many schools do not have the same programs, the students said.
Megan Freitas said she had entered the library when she saw a friend crying. The friend told Freitas about rumors that the school was closing. At 6:05 p.m. they received the e-mail confirming it.
"I've been in shock," said Freitas, who had only 15 credits left before graduation.
Still, she went to her 7 p.m. class, where her professor said he didn't know what was going on either.
Tyler Hylland, a senior with six credits left, said he had plans to graduate in spring 2018, but now is unsure of what will happen next.
"McNally is so much more than a school; it is a community," he said. "It's over. It seems like they don't care about us.
Hylland said he's noticed resources slowly decreasing, like certain after-school programs. "It's such a known thing around campus that our resources have been depleting, while our [costs] are going up," he said.
McNally and Doug Smith founded the college in 1985. According to its website, the college has had a yearly average enrollment of about 600 students and 100 faculty members.
In the e-mail to staff, McNally said he is asking faculty and staff to "consider finishing the term and issue grades as usual to avoid these horrific consequences for our students, even if it is without pay, simply for the sake of our students."
McNally said the administration is working with universities to help students continue their education.
Freitas, who moved to the Twin Cities from Boston to attend the college, now will pack up her things and move back home.
"I need my degree," she said. "I need to get a job. Especially because I'm in the music field, and it's not easy to get a job. I was dependent on my degree."