Could Wesley College taxpayer rescue funds have been put to better use?

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Good afternoon,

The debate continues over the General Assembly’s wisdom spending millions of dollars in taxpayer money in a failed attempt to prop up Wesley College.

The acquisition of the college by Delaware State University is slated to be completed by July. As the accompanying graphic from DSU indicates, this was no merger. It marked another achievement by the hard-charging DSU President Dr. Tony Allen,

As noted in a lengthy subscribers-only News Journal piece, Wesley might have limped along for a time with federal CARES Act money that went to higher education.

Cost-cutting and federal largesse helped plug a potential quarter of a billion-dollar budget hole at the University of Delaware.

Wesley had struggled for years with declining enrollment, past shaky leadership, and a lack of support from alumni, the business community, and the Methodist denomination.

As the clock ticked down, Dover-area legislators were able to convince their colleagues on the value of Wesley, citing, among other things, its sizable minority enrollment, economic impact, and a location near Dover’s struggling downtown.

The General Assembly was receptive to such pleas. The legislative body has long viewed Dover as worthy of assistance due to its economic struggles, lack of corporate benefactors, and location as the state capital.

The lingering question is whether the $6.5 million or so money could have better been spent on students or institutions that did a better job managing their money.

Dr. Colleen Keith, president of financially sound Goldey-Beacom College in Pike Creek, did not wade into the reasons for Wesley’s demise but noted the student assistance program was an option.

“A grant that follows the student to any college they attend within the state would be a great idea and likely would have helped Wesley over time. And Wesley (like GBC) is more than 60 percent Delaware residents, so a state grant to students would have been a better idea.”

Keith emphasizes that Goldey-Beacom does not plan to seek funding from the state.

“But a state grant that students can take directly to any in-state college makes sense,” she adds.

Keith is correct. The $6.5 million that went to Wesley could have been set aside for a public-private grant program. An endowment-based model could have awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants a year for decades to come at a minimal cost to taxpayers. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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