Lambuth Will Remain Nonprofit, but Investors Will Pay Bills

June 1, 2010

On Friday, just a week after announcing it would be sold to private investors, Lambuth University announced it would not be sold and would retain its nonprofit status. Bill Seymour, the president, said in an interview that negotiations with the investors led both sides to think that the university would be best served by keeping its nonprofit status, but working with the investors, whom he declined to name. Lambuth had been rushing to send its accreditor -- the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which has placed the university on probabation -- a proposal to approve an ownership change. Seymour said that, at the last minute, the university decided not to file, and that it will instead seek approval to add new online courses that will be offered in a yet-to-be-determined partnership with the investors. Lambuth is so low on cash that it didn't make payroll in May, but Seymour said that the investors would do so, and would provide money to keep the university running until the new online programs start. He said existing programs would also continue. Asked if the funds being provided by the investors were a donation, he declined to characterize them in any way.

Belle S. Wheelan, president of the SACS Commission on Colleges, said that the organization would review whatever proposal Lambuth makes. Asked about whether issues were raised by investors keeping the institution running without a change in ownership, she said that nonprofit colleges can receive gifts or loans from outside groups. But she added that "if you are paying the bills, you may own the place."

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