Frequently Asked Questions
Update November 15, 2017
What is the status of the transfer of Westminster Choir College to the new partner?
As of November 15, we continue with the due diligence process. This involves the exchange of questions and information. We are continuing to work on the Term Sheet, a non-binding statement of the basic terms and conditions under which we will proceed to negotiating and drafting the actual agreement.
What benefit does Rider University hope to achieve as a result of divesting WCC?
It is part of the plan that will lead to the transfer of Westminster to a new partner that both Westminster and Rider will have opportunities for growth, will achieve financial stability, and will have the necessary resources to ensure a solid future.
In the event that this transfer does not succeed, what plan is in place to help all students finish their Westminster degree?
All current students at the time such an outcome is reached would be offered the opportunity to complete their degree through Rider University.
What assurances are there that the new partner will a) establish non-profit status, b) obtain state licensure, and c) obtain accreditation? Will these be in place before an agreement is signed?
The partner is aware of all three of these conditions, and more, such as recognition for Title IV and Educational Opportunity Fund programs. The partner already has hired one accreditation consultant, has authorized the hiring of another, and is in the process of interviewing candidates for the position of project manager. These individuals will work with the Westminster administrative team to submit all necessary documentation for these many approvals. At no time, will Westminster be without licensure or accreditation. If the transfer process takes longer than the current academic year, Westminster will remain part of Rider for the next academic year, continuing its approvals as a branch campus of Rider. If the transfer process is able to be completed during this academic year, it will depend upon receipts of all such approvals.
Will any degrees be eliminated? If so, which and when?
The greatest confusion seems to concern the 5-year BM/MAT degree in Music Education. The MAT portion of the degree is under the purview of the College of Education and Human Services. Westminster administrators are in conversation with COEHS to agree on a plan for all students currently in that 5-year program and to discuss possible future partnerships. In the meantime, the Music Education Department is considering other programmatic alternatives. No other degrees are scheduled to be eliminated as part of the transfer.
If all possible transfer transactions fall through and there is a teach-out, what will the remaining students experience in these final years? Will classes be taught on the Princeton or Lawrenceville campus?
If there is teach-out leading to closure of Westminster, classes will be taught at the Princeton campus for 2018-2019. After that, the decision to move students, faculty and classes to the Lawrenceville campus will be based upon the number of continuing students. At this time, it is difficult to predict what the ensemble program will be like, as it will depend upon the number of students, the possibility of external contracts, and the balance of voices. During a teach-out, the number and size of classes, and as a result, the number of faculty, will decrease each year. All students who remain will be offered the appropriate courses to finish their degree. These courses will continue to be taught by both full-time and adjunct faculty.
If a student chooses to transfer to another school and out of pocket costs increase, will Rider cover the cost increase?
If a student chooses to transfer, Rider will not provide any financial assistance. In the event of a teach-out, Rider will continue all financial aid for which the student is eligible.
If Rider offers a teach-out, will students be able to request student loan forgiveness, based on the premise that the experience is not what was offered at the time of matriculation?
If a teach-out is enacted, Rider University will provide an opportunity for students to complete their program of study. Therefore, students would not be eligible for a discharge of their student loans.
Update November 4, 2017
What are the guiding principles for the process of seeking a new partner?
Rider University’s Board of Trustees has determined to evaluate options related to Westminster Choir College (WCC) and the associated campus property, driven by the following Guiding Principles:
- Potential to provide short-term and long-term financial stability for WCC and the University as a whole so both institutions are able to move forward with a high level of quality
- Commitment to preservation and enhancement of the ongoing integrity of the WCC history, brand, mission, artistic standards and programs
- Quality of the potential WCC partner, including its mission, reputation, culture and objectives, and, as possible measures thereof, its student outcomes, accreditations, enrollments, tuition and scholarship structure, performance statistics, endowment and giving record, and financial and programmatic resources
- The likelihood of completion of a transaction with the partner, including financial strength, timing, overall complexity, contingencies and conditions
- The interests of WCC stakeholders, including administration, faculty, staff, students, Coalition / Westminster Leadership Council, alumni and donors
- Strong sale proceeds to provide meaningful new program / facility investments in Lawrenceville to grow Rider enrollments
- Impact on Rider’s mission, reputation, culture and objectives
Updates November 1, 2017
What opportunities may be possible with the new partner?
In conversations to date, our prospective partner has identified several areas with great potential. While we are at the very beginning stages of negotiation and discussion, we believe there is strong interest in pursuing these areas:
- Invest in the facilities and equipment of the college
- Increase the global presence of the college
- Provide international exchanges for faculty and students
- Market Westminster Choir College to an entirely new population of musicians
- Reflect the growing presence of Asia in classical music
- Become competitive with our peers, who are active globally and particularly in Asia
- Funding for new programs
Will the college remain under the name “Westminster Choir College”, and what will become of Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts? Will that name be changed to ”Rider University College of the Arts”?
Our potential partner has recognized and spoken to the value of the name and location of Westminster Choir College. We anticipate that it will continue to use that name in operating the Westminster program in Princeton. Decisions about the name “College of the Arts” will be the result of negotiations between the University and the partner
Will students with an anticipated graduation date through May 2021 be guaranteed academic degrees in Music from Westminster Choir College and/or Rider University?
While it is early in our negotiations with the potential partner, the partner has indicated their intention to continue to operate the Choir College under its current name. We anticipate that applications for licensure, accreditation, etc., will be filed under the Choir College name, meaning that degrees will be conferred by Westminster. As long as the Choir College is a part of Rider University, there will be no change in the degree-granting process.
What is involved with the licensure process and the accreditation process for the potential partner?
While this answer is not intended to be exhaustive, here is a brief summary of steps to be completed:
- At the point where Westminster Choir College is completely separated from Rider University, it will have independent status and approval regarding licensure, accreditation, and other processes. With the partner, our mutual goal is to ensure that at no point in time Westminster Choir College is without the appropriate and necessary approvals.
- The partner must incorporate in New Jersey. They have indicated that this will be as a non-profit entity.
- The partner, with Westminster’s assistance, must apply for licensure to offer higher education degrees in the state from the New Jersey Department of Education.
- The partner, with Rider’s assistance, must apply for accreditation. Our mutual goal is to secure accreditation by both the National Association of Schools of Music and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Will the new partner honor existing financial aid packages awarded to currently enrolled students?
The portion of the University endowment that is earmarked for Westminster Choir College will remain with the Choir College. There are legally binding terms for each endowment, including those endowments that support student scholarship awards.
As part of the negotiation process, we will discuss the specific details of financial aid packages. Certain scholarships have academic requirements, such as minimum grade point averages. It is our goal to maintain the opportunity for all students to retain packages for which they are eligible.
Can individuals still contribute to the endowment and annual giving, and if so, is there assurance that such contributions will remain with Westminster?
Rider University/Westminster Choir College is deeply grateful to the many individuals and organizations who have supported WCC in the past and present. We have received several gifts already this year, and each is credited according to the wish of the donor. We ask that all such gifts be specifically identified as a contribution to Westminster Choir College. That donor intent will be honored.
Will all existing faculty members will be offered equivalent positions within the new Westminster Choir College?
Discussions are still in an early phase, but our understanding is that the partner intends to retain all students, faculty, and staff. The specific nature of any such contract offers remains to be determined. As with all such personnel decisions, details of such offers will not be public information.
Will all existing programs be offered by the new partner, including the five-year graduate program for education majors?
Discussions are still in an early phase, but our understanding is that the partner intends to retain all academic programs at this time. Please note that the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) portion of the 4+1 program in Music Education is not a Westminster Choir College program. It is offered and conferred by Rider’s College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) on the Lawrenceville campus. The Music Education Department continues to discuss this matter along with other elements specific to music education in the state of New Jersey. The Dean, Associate Dean, and faculty are working with COEHS regarding completion of the program by all currently enrolled students and the potential for a partnership after separation.
Will the Baccalaureate Honors Program continue at Westminster after the separation?
We are committed to ensuring completion of the program to all currently enrolled students. We also are planning to continue the program. Because the program currently is operated in partnership with the Lawrenceville campus, it is unclear at this time how we will adjust the options for completing the course requirements.
Can students complete major or minor programs offered by Lawrenceville?
We will continue to work with Lawrenceville colleges and schools to permit students to complete already declared programs offered by LAW-based departments and programs. This pertains most directly to students in the B.A. in Music degree, which requires completion of either a minor or concentration. At this time, students in that major may select from programs offered at either campus. We will continue to work with individual students to answer their questions and help them to determine options.
What impact will the new partnership have on the cost-of-attendance?
Decisions about these matters are made by the Board of Trustees at its February meeting. We have shared the current tuition and fee structure with the partner. The decision to set these fees will rest with the governance structure of the new Westminster Choir College once the College is transferred to the new partner. Until then, that decision rests with the Rider University Board of Trustees.
How long will the negotiations/due diligence process take?
While we cannot predict the speed or outcome of the negotiations that will lead to completion of the process, we expect to have more certainty as to the direction of the process in the next few months. We will continue to provide regular updates to the entire Rider/Westminster community along the way.
How will the new partnership affect Westminster Conservatory and Westminster Continuing Education?
Our potential partner has expressed a desire to keep both Westminster Conservatory and Westminster Continuing Education as part of Westminster Choir College. Westminster Conservatory is currently finalizing plans for their special summer programs and will, as usual, offer its full complement of private lessons this summer and into the next academic year.
Westminster Continuing Education has already planned the majority of its summer programming for middle school and high school students as well as for adult learners. As in past summers, Westminster Continuing Education is offering programs on both the Princeton and Lawrenceville campuses, as well as international programs in Oxford, Vienna and Florence.
Rider University’s Board of Trustees Aug. 17, 2017, Announcement
What did the Board of Trustees announce on Aug.17, 2017?
The Board selected as its finalist a potential international partner that has proposed to acquire Westminster Choir College and maintain the campus in Princeton. The Board will now begin negotiations and due diligence with the selected potential partner. Please know that much work still remains, and as this process moves forward, negotiations will remain confidential.
Will the University reveal the name of the potential international partner?
To ensure the integrity of the process, the University will not be sharing the name of the entity at this time. However, we are pleased to have identified a potential partner who is willing to acquire Westminster Choir College and maintain the campus in Princeton. Once the process is complete, we will announce the name of the partner.
How long will the negotiations/due diligence process take?
At this point, it is difficult to determine a timeframe for the complicated negotiations and due diligence process. But the identification of a potential partner who is willing to acquire Westminster Choir College and maintain the campus in Princeton is an important step in the process.
Rider University’s Board of Trustees March 28, 2017, Announcement
What did the Board of Trustees announce on March 28, 2017?
After commissioning a months-long study that incorporated community input and concerns, the Rider University Board of Trustees today announced a decision on the future of Westminster Choir College (Westminster). Specifically, the Board concluded that the strategic goals of the University will neither be achieved by keeping Westminster at its current location in Princeton, nor by consolidating Westminster onto the Lawrenceville campus.
Why does Rider need to make these changes?
Rider University is determined to eliminate its existing deficit and focus its resources on high quality academic programs and other important aspects of the student experience in order to accelerate the pace of reinvestment in the University. Like many other institutions of higher education, we face our share of challenges, but we are confident that the changes being implemented will help deliver on Rider’s promise for a bright future.
Who made this decision?
This was ultimately a decision made by the Board of Trustees.
I thought the University was only considering moving Westminster to Lawrenceville. Why did the Westminster Special Committee (WSC) and the Board decide to expand its scope? Why wasn’t that decision made public?
Over the course of the study, all options were reviewed and considered. The WSC determined it was both appropriate and necessary to include an analysis of the issues confronting Rider University beyond Westminster and a range of solutions that might best benefit Westminster and the broader University. However, it became clear that continuing to operate on two campuses would not allow Rider to eliminate deficits or make meaningful investments in its future. In addition, the WSC concluded that moving the Westminster programs to Lawrenceville would not provide the high-quality experience that students and other constituents desired.
Is the option of moving Westminster onto the Lawrenceville campus still on the table? Why not?
Rider University is determined to eliminate its existing deficit and focus its resources on high quality academic programs and other important aspects of the student experience in order to accelerate the pace of reinvestment in the University. The WSC determined that neither keeping Westminster at its current location in Princeton as part of Rider, nor consolidating Westminster onto the Lawrenceville campus would achieve these strategic goals.
Westminster Choir College’s legacy can be best achieved by identifying an institution that is better positioned to make necessary investments in and build upon the school’s world-class curriculum. With the help of an outside firm, the University will be seeking an institution to purchase the campus and operate the Westminster programs in Princeton or to acquire and relocate Westminster’s programs. That process is expected to take place over the next 12 months.
I am a student at Westminster. Will I be able to graduate from Westminster?
Westminster hopes to continue offering classes on the Princeton campus. Once an institution to acquire Westminster is identified, we will work closely with that institution to determine when students will begin to take Westminster courses from that college or university. These courses could be offered at the Princeton campus or they could be offered on the campus of the new institution.
Will I lose my job as a professor?
No, there will be no layoffs as part of this announcement. Our faculty remain an integral part of Westminster and will be a key factor in the search for an institution to acquire the college. As more information becomes available, we will be working closely with any affected faculty.
Will there be layoffs of University staff?
No, there will be no layoffs as part of this announcement.
Were community members asked/informed of this decision before the announcement?
Yes. The WSC’s analysis was comprehensive and accounted for the input received from faculty, staff, students, alumni and other members of the campus community.
Will the University be providing updates on its progress? Where can I find more information?
This website, www.rider.edu/wccupdate, has been created to keep the community informed of any updates and includes some answers to potential questions. We will be providing regular updates on our progress. We know there will be questions, and, over the coming months, we are committed to working closely with our students, faculty and staff to provide them with the resources they need to ensure a smooth transition.