Rider University officials announced Tuesday afternoon that the school will seek a new partner to take over Westminster Choir College and purchase the campus in downtown Princeton.
The decision comes after a few months of study. Officials said the move was necessary to reduce Rider University’s deficit.
Rider University President Greg Dell’Omo told reporters at an afternoon press conference that preserving the legacy of Westminster Choir College is critical.
“It was concluded that neither keeping Westminster at its current location in Princeton, nor consolidating Westminster onto the Lawrenceville campus, would achieve the strategic goals of the university,” Dell’Omo said.
Rider has hired Price Waterhouse to seek a buyer for the school and campus and pursue several options. The process is expected to take place over the next 12 months.
“We are pretty confident there’s going to be a fair level of interest,” Dell’Omo said.
The Princeton campus and school could be sold together, or an institution could buy the choir college and move it to that institution’s existing campus.
“We recognize the impact that today’s announcement has and will continue to have on the Westminster community,” said Michael Kennedy, chairman of the Rider University Board of Trustees. “We understand that this uncertainty is unsettling, particularly given the strong traditions, history and passion associated with Rider’s Princeton campus. The board did not make the decision lightly and took into account the thoughtful feedback from the campus community and all of its stakeholders.”
Hundreds of students, faculty members, alumni and community supporters attended a rally to voice their opposition to the sale of the campus on Tuesday morning.
While many students were upset about the decision to sell the campus, others were relieved to hear that the school will seek to sell the choir college and preserve it as an institution.
University officials will hold “town halls” with students and faculty members on both campuses this afternoon and Wednesday to discuss the decision.
Dell’Omo sent the following letter to the Rider University community and parents of students this afternoon:
Dear Members of the Rider Community:
I’m writing to you today to share an update on the steps we’re taking to improve and strengthen Rider University. As many of you are aware, there are a number of significant challenges facing the University – among them, declining enrollment and retention, high operating costs and increased competition. While these issues do not define Rider, it is our responsibility to address them and map out a path forward.
After commissioning a months-long study that incorporated community input and concerns, the Rider University Board of Trustees today announced a decision on the future of Westminster Choir College (Westminster). Specifically, the Board concluded that the strategic goals of the University will neither be achieved by keeping Westminster at its current location in Princeton, nor by consolidating Westminster onto the Lawrenceville campus.
Recognizing the invaluable role that Westminster plays in the music community, the University has instead begun the process of identifying an institution that may be able to acquire the Choir College. The goal is to keep Westminster in Princeton given the deep community ties and the resulting opportunities and resources they afford to students and members of the faculty. We expect this process to play out over the next 12 months. We hope to continue offering classes on the Princeton campus. Once an institution to acquire Westminster is identified, we will work closely with that institution to determine when students will begin to take Westminster courses from that college or university. These courses could be offered at the Princeton campus or they could be offered on the campus of the new institution.
I am acutely aware of the significant impact that this decision will have on students, faculty, and staff, especially those of Westminster Choir College. Please know that the Board of Trustees did not reach this decision lightly, but I am confident that these actions will help preserve and enhance both Westminster and Rider University as a whole. I strongly believe that Westminster’s legacy can best be preserved by finding an institution that is better positioned to invest in and build upon the Choir College’s extraordinary history.
I know you will have questions and concerns and over the coming months, we are committed to providing you with regular updates. As you may already know, I will be conducting Town Halls this evening at Westminster and tomorrow at our Lawrenceville campus with students, faculty and staff. I hope to address your questions and concerns at that time. Additionally, as progress is made on all fronts, you can visit www.rider.edu/thepathforward for more information.
I am confident that the changes being proposed today will help deliver on Rider’s promise for a bright future. I am committed to working with all of you as we make this transition together.
With deep appreciation,
President Greg Dell’Omo
We will continue to update this story later in the day.