William Peace University, an 800-student liberal arts college in North Carolina, announced Monday it had closed a controversial land deal that has drawn criticism of the university by already suspicious alumnae, including major donors. It plans to spend nearly $21 million on a shopping center and other property across the street from its campus. Of that, $10.75 million is coming from the university's $33 million endowment -- a third of the endowment, though less than the two-thirds some had suggested would be used for the deal.
The rest of the funding comes from a $10 million bank loan that is structured to put only the new property and not any of the university's existing assets on the line in the event of a default, said Billie Redmond, CEO of Trademark Properties, which brokered the deal for William Peace. Redmond said the vast majority of the shopping center is leased and generates a steady flow of income. The university also can use parcels it purchased for expansion.
The land deal is only the latest in a series of controversies that involve nearly every aspect of Peace’s operations – the once all-women’s college began admitting men, changed its name, asked faculty to sign agreements giving away their rights to take the university to court, downsized and is attempting to grow its enrollment, according to local news media accounts.