College of Santa Fe Deal Falls Through

Will there be a gaping hole in higher education?

On the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 26  CSF president Stuart Kirk  issued an email declaring that the for-profit education corporation, Laureate, will not go forward with its purchase of the Santa Fe-based liberal arts school.

The college is approximately $30 million debt and many considered the Laureate purchase to be the last possible route to avoid closure of the campus. Negotiations have been contractually exlusive with Laureate during an extended period of due diligence making it unlikely that CSF has other courters waiting in the wings. However, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and the Secretary of Higher Education Reed Dasenbrock are working to form a relationship with New Mexico Highlands University or University of New Mexico.

President Kirk expresses upbeat tones about the potential for a last minute state merger, but it's a hard sell to students and faculty who have been hearing optimism for months, while the situation continues to worsen.

The full text of Kirk's email is below:

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

Here is an update on the current negotiations.

It is now obvious that, because of their own financial realities,
Laureate will not be able to assume the debt required to retire our
bonds and fund the College. Over the weekend this information was given
to Governor Richardson, and he has asked the Secretary of Higher
Education to see if there is an arrangement in which the College can
become a state institution. There are two institutions involved in
discussions: UNM and Highlands. Highlands is very interested, and their
board has given preliminary approval. UNM has asked for financial
information, and we will be meeting with them next week.

We will know more about these possibilities next week. Further updates
will be made as they become available.


Stuart C. Kirk

Despite Kirk's greeting being addressed to "students," as well as faculty and staff, students did not receive the notification by email until Friday, Nov. 28, well after reading about it the local news.

In a press release issued late on Nov. 26, Governor Richardson expressed his committment to resolving the crisis, saying "We need to explore every possibility to see if there is a way for it [College of Santa Fe] to continue to serve the citizens of Santa Fe and of New Mexico."

Secretary Dasenbrock was quoted as saying "We do think it is in the state's and city's interest that the College of Santa Fe continue to exist, and we think the state's capital should have a four-year institution in it."

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, concerned students created a Facebook group in order to brainstorm ideas about how to support their school and contribute to a positive resolution. Kirk has promised a series of forums for staff, faculty and students, currently each scheduled for different times on Tuesday. Kirk is allowing 45 minutes to break down the situation for each group separately, presumably to address each group's specific concerns. But some are reading it as a divide and conquer move. Organizing via Facebook, students have scheduled their own strategy meeting on the night of Monday, Dec. 1 in advance of Kirk's forum. Students also spread among themselves the full contact information for the board of directors and are encouraging direct contact to express their frustration over the situation.

The administration is known to be frustrated by such student actions, but the students are determined to have their say, even as they work to satisfy end of the semester workloads in the face of an uncertain future.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Optic reports that outgoing Highlands University board of regents chairman, Javier Gonzales, claims the Las Vegas-based school is "very serious" about pursuing a takeover of CSF. Gonzales further said, in a statement that may not exactly infuse CSF students with vigor, that CSF would be similar to Highlands offshoots in Farmington and Rio Rancho.

News will be updated as it comes in.

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