Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia announced Tuesday a deal in which it sold its campus in order to cut costs and get out from under long-term debt. The university sold its campus to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and will subsequently lease back that campus. In exchange, the diocese paid off the university’s bond debt.
It is the second cost-cutting move Wheeling Jesuit has pursued of late. The university earlier this year offered early retirement to faculty and staff members. About 40 of its nearly 400 employees took the offer.
The moves are part of an effort to balance Wheeling Jesuit’s roughly $30 million annual budget, said its president, Debra Townsley. She is working to balance the budget within two years.
Trustees asked the diocese for help lowering operating costs earlier this year. An analysis showed annual payments on the university’s long-term debt were not sustainable. The debt was largely from building construction over time, Townsley said.
Townsley and the university did not release financial details of the transaction with the diocese. Wheeling Jesuit’s most recent federal tax forms, for the year ending in June 2015, showed the university with slightly less than $12.1 million in tax-exempt bond liabilities.
“This is certainly a substantial chunk of relief,” Townsley said. “The diocese has asked me not to speak about the specific financials of this transaction, and given how generous they’ve been to us, I am going to abide by their wishes.”
The diocese originally gave the university the property in 1952. It will not be responsible for operating the university going forward. The diocese will lease back the property to the university at a nominal rate.
The transaction closed Monday. University leaders said it will help them stabilize financial operations as they seek to position the institution for the future.