Less than 24 hours after its board announced indefinite closure when the academic year ends in April, Quest University’s buildings and surrounding land are for sale.
“Operating university with extensive development potential,” says the Feb. 24-published flyer through NAI Commercial Associate Vice-President Marshall MacLeod.
MacLeod said the asking price is confidential and subject to a non-disclosure agreement for a serious bidder.
B.C. Assessment Authority pegged the land at $15.08 million and buildings $54.168 million in 2022, for a total $69.256 million.
The campus and sportsplex occupy 23 out of approximately 55 acres.
“Currently, a single legal title (lot 1), once subdivided, the remaining land will provide for an estimated 38 acres of gross development land for a number of identified uses which include market and non-market housing, commercial development, university uses, public elementary school and park dedication,” said the NAI Commercial flyer.
MacLeod said the sale had been in the works for a while. The underlying information for the digital flyer said it was originally created Oct. 5, 2022.
Primacorp Ventures Inc. paid $43 million for the land and university buildings to rescue Quest University out of court protection from creditors in December 2020. Quest sought protection in January of that year after its biggest lender, the Vanchorverve Foundation, demanded repayment of $23.4 million. Vanchorverve is one of dozens of charities registered by Vancouver lawyer Blake Bromley.
Primacorp recently discontinued its agreement to provide comprehensive student recruitment, marketing and fundraising services to keep Quest going.
The board that oversees operations of the private university announced Thursday that it plans to restructure finances and operations, but did not provide an estimated timeline. Quest said it had been seeking additional funding to continue beyond April, but “the board concluded that it had no alternative but to make the responsible decision it has at this time.”
“The board’s first priority is to protect our current and prospective students,” said the statement. “It is not prepared to continue offering our innovative programming if the university cannot confidently deliver the full 2023/24 academic year.”
Primacorp, under chair Peter Chung, bills itself as Canada’s largest provider of private post-secondary education with 15,000 annual enrolments and has subsidiaries in seniors’ housing, commercial real estate and self storage in Canada and the U.S. Requests to interview Chung have not been fulfilled.
Quest president Art Coren has not responded to repeated interview requests. It is understood that staff layoffs are already underway.
In November 2020, then-Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott expressed “grave concern” over Primacorp’s takeover.
In her prescient statement, Elliott said the deal with for-profit Primacorp created “an uphill runway that will make it difficult for it to be viable.”
As of 2022, more than 1,000 students had graduated from Quest. It had an estimated 200 students to start this year. The Quest website says it charges Canadians $23,000 and non-Canadians $38,000 for annual tuition. Room, board, travel and other fees are estimated at $15,000.
B.C.’s Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills said Friday that it will make students whole if Quest University doesn’t, after the Squamish university announced a day earlier that it will close indefinitely when its academic year ends in April.
The private liberal arts and science university that opened in 2007 receives no funding from the ministry, but the province’s role is to ensure programming quality and student protection.
“The Ministry holds a financial security from Quest University to secure student tuition refunds, if necessary,” a statement from a representative of Minister Selina Robinson.
The financial security ensures that if students paid for education they did not receive, that they are provided a refund. Quest pledged that refunds will be forthcoming and that Students not graduating in April will receive one-on-one counselling to transfer elsewhere.
“The Ministry will be available to support students as this transition continues.”
Meanwhile, District of Squamish said in a statement of its own that it is “saddened and disappointed” with Quest’s decision. The district admitted it had been secretly briefed by the board and knew the university was in dire straits.
Since a June 2000 memorandum of understanding, the district waived property taxes for the university and spent $5 million on municipal services infrastructure.
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