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Buyer Unnamed for Goddard Sale Price of $3.4 Million

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PLAINFIELD – The buyer of the Goddard College campus, which the school has refused to name, will pay a multi-million dollar sum for the 117-acre Plainfield property. 

File photo by Glenn Russell, VTDigger
Goddard College in Plainfield as it looked on June 22, 2023.

“We are not at liberty to disclose the potential buyer,” Lisa Larivee, clerk of Goddard’s board of trustees, said in an email to VTDigger recently. 

The deal, which was announced May 28, is worth $3.4 million, an amount that should allow the college to pay off loans, employee severances and other costs associated with closing the school,  according to a letter Goddard sent to the Office of the Vermont Attorney General.

Under Vermont law, a nonprofit organization like Goddard must provide such notice to the attorney general at least 20 days before selling its property. The school does not, however, have a legal obligation to disclose the buyer in that notice, according to Amelia Vath, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office. 

Two community groups that attempted to buy Goddard’s campus  told VTDigger  that they did not believe the school had negotiated in good faith. One of them, the Greatwood Project, said it was 10 days away from making a cash offer of about $3.5 million when it was told the college’s board had chosen another buyer. 

“We entered into a contract with the potential buyer that submitted the only offer that would allow us to meet our fiduciary responsibility in time,” Larivee reiterated on Tuesday. 

VTDigger has been unable to confirm reports that Goddard’s campus had been sold to a local real estate developer. 

According to Goddard’s letter, approximately $2 million from the sale will go to pay off a mortgage loan. Larivee also pointed to the need to pay faculty and staff as well as to “ensure a smooth transition for our students.” 

A smooth transition is not what former student Molly Walters said she’s experiencing. Because she was doing her pre-graduate semester this spring, a Goddard requirement before starting a master’s program, Walters said her credits are not transferable to any other institution, since they are not graduate-level credits. That has left her scrambling to find colleges still accepting applications for the fall semester. 

It is a crushing disappointment for Walters, who said she heard about Goddard through an Instagram ad and was attracted to its progressive and independent ethos. As a neurodivergent person with a chronic illness, she had long shied away from pursuing a graduate degree. 

“Goddard was kind of like this miracle school that I could really succeed at with all I have going on,” said Walters, whose dream is to become a mental health counselor. 

Instead, she found herself withdrawing from her courses midway through the semester and staring at $12,000 in tuition loans. Walters plans to pay interest on them for two years while she seeks federal loan forgiveness. 

In the letter to the attorney general, Goddard said it had established a teach-out plan with Prescott University in Arizona, which would allow students to finish their degrees in the same remote fashion in which the school had recently been operating. But students like Walters, who want their tuition loans back, cannot take the plan: Federal Student Aid rules  would render them ineligible for loan forgiveness if they did. 

Goddard  announced its closure April 9, two days after the deadline by which, if a student withdrew, they would have still gotten some of their tuition back, said Walters. 

“I would have absolutely withdrawn had I known before the deadline,” she said. 

Larivee said the tuition deadline didn’t factor into the timing of the closure announcement.
“The board of trustees did not discuss the tuition refund date,” the board clerk said. “The announcement of closure was made as quickly as feasible after the decision to close.” 

Frustration among students and faculty has led some of them to found Remake Goddard Alliance, a nonprofit whose mission is “to remake Goddard College as a cherished Vermont institution,” according to  a press release  issued recently. 

In it, Remake Goddard accused the college’s leadership of a long list of wrongdoings, including allegedly breaking labor contracts with faculty and staff and failing to compensate students for losing their degree programs. 

Furthermore,  under Vermont law, a dissolving nonprofit corporation must typically give any remaining funds to another nonprofit. In Washington Superior Court in Montpelier, the group filed for a  temporary injunction  to try to halt the sale of the school on the grounds that it had failed to comply with this requirement. 

The court filing “represents one of several legal actions . . . with more actions anticipated in the near future,” Remake Goddard said in the release. 

Jaun Vega de Soto, VTDigger

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