In a move that would keep Westminster Choir College in Princeton, Rider University announced Wednesday that it had reached a tentative deal to sell the music school to a Chinese education company for $40 million.
Rider’s board of trustees said it had signed a nonbinding term sheet with Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co. Ltd. The university announced last March that it would seek a buyer for the financially struggling institution, which has been based in Princeton since 1932. The music school merged with Rider in 1992.
The announcement to sell Westminster, which has 14 buildings on a 23-acre campus, sparked protests by students and faculty, and has prompted legal challenges.
“This is the beginning of an exciting new era for Westminster Choir College, its faculty, staff and students,” Gregory G. Dell’Omo, president of Rider University, said in a statement. “Kaiwen Education put forth an impressive proposal rooted in their sincere interest in the Westminster brand and in keeping the institution as a part of the Princeton community. We are eager to continue collaborating with Kaiwen Education to develop a binding agreement, the next step in this process.”
Kaiwen Education, which operates two international K-12 academies in Beijing, would also take ownership of the Westminster Conservatory of Music and Westminster Continuing Education.
Details of the proposed deal remain confidential, but Rider said Kaiwen Education intends to make offers of employment to faculty and staff.
The Chinese firm also was committed to aiding students with endowed scholarships, tuition discounts, and other grant obligations, the university said.
Rider, facing its own financial issues, last year issued layoff notices to Westminster’s faculty. The union representing the faculty has gone to federal court to contest the sale of Westminster. A federal judge ruled earlier this month that Rider could continue negotiating the sale.
Rider said Kaiwen Education has hired two consultants recommended by Westminster to guide the negotiations.
Dell’Omo said the proposed $40 million would allow for Rider to invest in strategic priorities and allow the university to offset some of the losses incurred in operating Westminster since 1992.
He also said the purchase price demonstrates that Kaiwen Education has the resources to commit to Westminster’s long-term viability