I just graduated from a Christian school in Wall Street, and it’s about to go under.
King’s College is a small private liberal arts college in New York City’s financial district. Adjacent to the New York Stock Exchange and a short walk from the famous Charging Bull, the college gets a lot of foot traffic but goes largely unnoticed. The entire campus is contained within three floors of a nondescript high-rise.
But now the school is making national headlines as it faces closure due to declining enrollment and financial difficulties. It needs $2.6 million to complete the spring semester.
King’s seemed like the perfect escape from my small town childhood in rural Pennsylvania.
The school offered a close-knit community as well as 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 mostly white college body.
But I soon discovered that the school had a dualistic culture that was unpleasant. King’s is different from other Christian colleges that are typically located 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 ashamed I went to King’s now more than ever. I graduated this winter feeling disillusioned with the whole experience and, frankly, I think it was coming.
‘Don’t just go to university, come to King’s’
How does a small, Christian school end up in the heart of the country’s largest city?
That’s part of the school’s field. It praises the best way to change culture is to engage directly with it—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 shape and ultimately lead strategic public and private institutions” through a classical education taught from a Christian worldview.
In many ways, it has achieved that goal. King’s alumni work at financial services companies, including Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and Fidelity. Meanwhile, others cover finances at publications such as 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 extortion. He is currently awaiting trial.
Hwang’s charity was perhaps most notable among students for funding the free Chick-fil-A the school offered during its weekly public reading of scripture. When the free chicken sandwiches disappeared, so 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 move away from the “Kingsian” culture, which is ironic given that one of the school’s marketing campaigns focuses entirely on the phrase, “Don’t just go to college, come to King’s.” The latter really like the school and its mission. They try to embody the words of the school: ‘good, brave and ready’.
Adhering to the honor code is the best example of the school’s duality.
Students can report their peers for violating school rules, including anything from underage drinking or drug possession to sexual activity or violating the school’s business dress code. It is intended to promote integrity and virtue within the student body, but in reality it creates an environment of petty banter and mistrust between students.
King’s failed to deliver on its promise to ‘engage culture’
I give some credit to King’s. In class, I was challenged to grapple with concepts I naively thought I already understood, such as political ideology and religion. My education motivated me to question my beliefs, correct my ignorance, and dispel my doubts. But I noticed that many of my colleagues wouldn’t really consider the merit of opinions that differed from their own.
My shift in mindset – and my colleagues’ unwillingness to see the other side of things – opened my eyes to what I considered narrow-mindedness nurtured in King’s classrooms. As much as the school tries to “engage in culture,” I found that its religious and political views resulted in an insular student body that was largely ignorant and apathetic to the people and struggles just outside the campus doors.
Through his Christian worldview, King’s students learn to resist secular culture. A symptom of that teaching is the belief that the 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. Agreeing to become editor of the newspaper meant signing up as a target of antagonism from the faculty and a point of contention among the students.
In one case, a professor emailed my journalism advisor, calling me and a fellow editor “lazy” and “incompetent” because of an article that was reasonably reported and unbiased.
The sharp turn in my attitude came in 2021. I quickly saw that the school was unwilling—sluggish at best—to respond to the issues faced by students of color, such as the spike in violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic.
It wasn’t until two weeks after the deadly Atlanta Spa shootings that King’s began coordinating or organizing any form of statement for its Asian American Pacific Islander students. Even then, the response itself was student-led and spurred by students, including myself, who emailed the administration and posted on social media to gain attention.
For all its faults, I don’t want King’s to close
And now the college is collapsing.
King’s advised current students to look into switching. Some professors are leaving after this semester and others have posted their resumes on LinkedIn looking for work.
An offer for aid from the school to alumni, parents and potential donors raised more than $325,000 on March 3, a school spokesman said.
“We are deeply grateful for the generosity and support of our community. It was also incredible to see the student body come together, encourage each other to prayer, and proactively come up with positive fundraising initiatives such as the wonderful TKC Letters Project,” the spokesperson said. by e-mail to Insider.
The school reportedly received a $2 million loan from Peter Chung, CEO of Primacorp Ventures, which will cover faculty and staff salaries for the remainder of the semester. But it seems like a short-term solution, as the loan doesn’t cover the two months of back rent owed on the apartments it rents as on-campus housing.
King’s has gone down this road before. The school, then located at Briarcliff Manor in New York State, experienced financial difficulties that eventually led to its closure in 1994. Five years later, she resurrected herself in the basement of the Empire State Building before being evicted from the building’s management and moved to the current Financial District campus in 2012.
So in a university where I felt unheard, unseen, and sometimes even opposed due to conservative ideologies, I can’t say I’m proud to have gone to King’s.
That said, and this may come as a shock, I don’t want the school to close.
It’s not easy not to see my alma mater go down the drain so slowly but surely. I met some of my best friends at King’s, and I have fond memories of those three transformative years.
Not me want to the college to close, but I think they came up with it because of the ideals and people it put on a pedestal and the others it crushed.
At the end of the day, I’m just glad I got out in time.