Lawmakers and residents are worried. Will the potential departure of Wesley College mean the end for Dover's downtown?
Wesley College has been approved for up to $3 million from the state, possibly securing the college’s future until a merger can occur.
In November, the Dover liberal arts college requested $3.2 million from a newly expanded fund meant for higher education investment. Since 2018, the private college has received a total of $6.375 million from the state.
Wesley must draw money on an as-needed basis, and has been required to meet certain conditions. The state’s agreement with Wesley bars the school from requesting any more funding from the higher education investment committee, or any other state agency.
Whether Wesley would receive the additional funds was uncertain last month, when committee member Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark, said the school lacked support of the five-member panel responsible for allocating the funds.
The decision “proved difficult” for the committee, said Robert Scoglietti, spokesman for the state Office of Management and Budget. The committee cited the college’s economic effect as the main driver behind the change of heart, noting that the loss of over 200 jobs and 19 vacant buildings in downtown Dover “would be significant.”
Awarding the money – and effectively keeping the college open until a merger agreement can be reached – would ensure that Delawareans attending the school get an education free from the disruption of a school closure, Scoglietti said in a written statement.
Like past rounds of funding, the $3 million will help the college stay in the proper financial standing so that students can continue to receive federal aid. It will also go toward meeting payroll.
Should Wesley fail to merge with another institution, it must transfer ownership of the old Dover Public Library to the state. The school bought it from Dover for $1 in 2017.
To continue to have access to the $3 million, the school must provide the state with written weekly updates on its progress toward a partnership and a plan to graduate 200 students this spring.
Other schools that received funding from the investment committee include: Delaware State University, Delaware Technical Community College, University of Delaware, and the Delaware College of Art and Design.
In fiscal year 2021, the intent is that only Delaware State, UD and Delaware Technical Community College will receive money from the investment fund.
Natalia Alamdari covers education for The News Journal. You can reach her at (302) 324-2312 or email@example.com.