Villanova is buying a nearby university that has been struggling

June 26, 2023
Cabrini University in Radford, Pa. will shut down at the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

Villanova University in Villanova, Pa., has reached a tentative agreement to buy the nearby campus of the cash-strapped Cabrini University, which will close at the end of the next academic year in June 2024.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Cabrini, a 66-year-old Catholic institution in Radnor, Pa., had been exploring partnerships and merger possibilities. But with a deficit that had grown to more than $10 million (its budget is about $45 million), Cabrini President Helen Drinan said closure was the path the school needed to take.

Villanova, also a Catholic institution, hasn’t decided what it will do with the 112-acre Cabrini campus, which is about two miles away in Radnor. The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, Villanova’s president, said it will continue to be known as Villanova’s Cabrini campus as a way to preserve the school’s legacy.

For the next academic year, Cabrini will continue to operate as usual, and Villanova will provide support as needed, Drinan said. Cabrini has about 1,200 undergraduates and 300 graduate students.

Drinan says Cabrini has made arrangements with three other local colleges — Holy Family University in Philadelphia, Gwynedd Mercy University in Gwynedd Valley, and Eastern University in St. Davids — to help ease transfers so that students can carry over all their credits. Villanova also will be open to transfers, Donohue said. But Villanova’s tuition is nearly twice as much as Cabrini’s.

Cabrini will help the university’s several hundred employees look for new jobs, Drinan said. Villanova, which employs about 3,000 and recently had more than 90 openings, has committed to helping employ some Cabrini staff.

Cabrini was founded in 1957 by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the religious order of the college’s namesake, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. It has had a focus on social justice learning throughout its history.

Originally a college, it became a university in 2016.

Cabrini’s financial problems have been building over the years. Standard & Poor’s downgraded Cabrini’s credit rating last year. At that time, the school was facing a $5 million to $6 million deficit, and enrollment had fallen about 36% since 2016-17, when 2,360 students were enrolled.

The financial picture at Villanova is much different. Unlike many of the region’s smaller Catholic universities, Villanova’s undergraduate enrollment has been steady over the last five years. For the school year that just ended, Villanova, which has a 260-acre campus, had 6,752 full-time undergraduates.

Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Villanova’s credit rating in February 2022.

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