Sacred Heart backs out University of Bridgeport partnership
FAIRFIELD — Sacred Heart University is backing out of a planned partnership to absorb portions of the University of Bridgeport.
The pullout was made public on Monday with a late morning message to the Sacred Heart community.
Sacred Heart, along with Goodwin University in East Hartford and Paier College in Hamden, announced on the UB campus in June that it would take over buildings and programs at the struggling 97-year-old higher education institution.
Sacred Heart initially said it would take over five programs, including engineering, the School of Chiropractic, a graduate program in nutrition, some education certificate programs and a program in counselor education. More recently that was down to two programs: nutrition and chiropractic.
When Sacred Heart University officials spoke to a Bridgeport City Council committee last week, SHU administrators said they were looking at “one or two programs.”
Goodwin University is expected to take the lion’s share of UB programs with Paier College taking just UB’s school of design. It is unclear now if Goodwin will absorb all that Sacred Heart has abandoned.
In a memo to the Sacred Heart community, President John Petillo said after a due diligence process and an attempt to verify the finances, SHU is unable to move forward with this acquisition.
“The enrollment projections, and the corresponding financial projections, provided to us by UB’s principal lender and its consulting firm when the letter of intent was signed, did not materialize,” Petillo said. “The enrollment numbers turned out to be significantly less than what we were led to believe. We made another offer, in line with the new projections, and that was turned down.”
Petillo said from the beginning, SHU was motivated by a desire to serve students in our area.
“Admittedly, this was a complicated arrangement with many partners, but we were hopeful that we could make it work for all involved,” Petillo said. “In the end, an upside may be that our pulling out makes it less complicated for everyone else to move forward.”
Deborah Noack, a Sacred Heart spokeswoman, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a strain on college finances across the nation, had nothing to do with the decision.
UB did not immediately respond to requests for comment.