Jane Sanders once served as president of Burlington College, a small private college in Vermont, and later this month the college will shut its doors due to “crushing debt” acquired by Sanders.
Jane Sanders, wife of presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders, has been hitting the campaign trail and media circuit in support of her husband, but she’s mostly kept out of the media spotlight – until today. While serving as president of Burlington college, Jane Sanders brokered a real estate deal that has saddled the Vermont college with so much debt that the school can no longer afford to keep its doors open, reports the Washington Post.
Sanders pushed Burlington College to make a multi-million dollar land purchase, buying up expensive lakefront land for around $10 million – which the school paid for with bonds and loans. At the time, Jane Sanders reportedly made the purchase in an effort to attract more students and more donors to the small Vermont college, which had around 224 students as of 2014.
Jane Sanders resigned the following year, after the real estate deal started to tank Burlington College’s finances. Sanders took in a $200,000 severance package in exchange for her resignation, but despite Burlington’s best efforts, the college couldn’t save itself from financial ruin as a result of the botched land deal. As a result of Burlington College running on loans and tenuous financial agreements after Jane Sanders’ departure, the school was placed on probation by a Vermont accreditation agency – jeopardizing the school’s ability to award academic credit.
“We anticipate notice that we have not met the Commission’s financial standard and therefore our accreditation will be lifted as of January 2016, and the College will not be able to award academic credit after this time,” read a statement from Burlington College.
Jane Sanders’ Burlington College land deal was made with a few stipulations. Sanders reportedly assured lenders that the College had received around $2 million in fundraising pledges in order to secure the loans necessary to purchase the land, but according to Heatstreet, Burlington College only raised around $279,000 in 2011.
“In recent years, Burlington College has struggled under the crushing weight of the debt incurred by the purchase of the Archdiocese property on North Avenue,” reads a statement from Burlington College.
Burlington College will close later this month as a result of “insurmountable” financial hurdles caused by the “crushing debt” incurred by Jane Sanders’ land deal. Burlington College representatives have declined to criticize the land deal or Jane Sanders herself for pushing for the real estate purchase, reports Politico.
“We have explored multiple, multiple options – just about anything we could think of. This is a great loss to the higher ed community, so we did explore many other options. But in the final analysis, none of them came through,” said Coralee Holm, Burlington College’s dean of operations.
After the Jane Sanders land deal, Burlington College struggled to justify the purchase, and with flagging financials, the school later re-sold most of the land – other than a small six-acre plot and central building. Reportedly, Burlington College had successfully lowered the debt incurred by the Jane Sanders’ land deal to manageable levels, but after the college board of trustees was notified that Burlington’s $1 million credit line wouldn’t be renewed, the board voted to close the college for good.
Burlington College was founded in 1972 and will close as of May 27, 2016. Jane Sanders, wife of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, served as president of Burlington College from 2004 to 2011. Neither Sanders nor the College has commented on the reason for her departure, reports Politico.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]