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Keystone College says deal to keep school open nearing

Keystone College
Sarah Hofius Hall
Keystone College

Keystone College and an unnamed partner have reached “the final stages” of negotiations on an agreement to ensure the school stays open, the college announced Friday.

“While details of the agreement are not yet public, the day-to-day operations of the College and its academic mission will remain essentially unchanged,” a statement from the college said. “Both parties felt that discussions had crossed a critical point which would allow the college to announce that an agreement is imminent.”

In the statement, the college said the final stages should lead to “executing a letter of intent and funding agreement with a strategic partner to create a new partnership that will provide Keystone with a roadmap for a long-term path forward.”

Long financially troubled, Keystone, which straddles the border of Lackawanna and Wyoming counties, is under pressure from an accrediting agency to show it remains financially viable.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has ordered the school to prepare for closing and show why the commission should keep accrediting the school.

School officials have publicly talked about negotiations with an unnamed “investment partner,” but this is the first time a Keystone progress report clearly expressed confidence the school can remain open.

The commission has said the school reported it is in danger of “imminent closure.” That, the agency said, prompted the commission to require the school to develop a closure plan. In an April 26 letter to faculty, school president John F. Pullo Sr. said the danger of “imminent closure” was the commission’s view.

The college has declined to make Pullo, a WVIA board member, available for an interview.

In statements, Pullo has talked about negotiations with an unnamed “investment partner,” but this is the first time a Keystone progress report clearly expressed confidence the school can remain open.

“Keystone College is absolutely thrilled to reach this point in our discussions with our strategic partner,” Pullo said in the school’s statement. “For the past several months, we continued to say we were hopeful that an agreement with an innovative partner could be reached while fulfilling every obligation to our accreditor to prepare for closure, should that be necessary.”

He thanked “students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who continued to believe in us as well as to the educational partners that are included in our teach-out plan.”

“Since its founding in 1868, Keystone’s motto has been ‘Progress Through Effort’ and we continue to work long and hard to secure a positive outcome so we can look to the future with promise and optimism,” he said. “The agreement is just the beginning as there will be much work to do on our path forward in the days ahead. But we do have a path forward and we intend to work very closely with Middle States to ensure successful continuation of operations.”

Middle States warned April 25 the school faced losing its accreditation. Accreditation qualifies a school to offer federal financial aid. Without that, a school could lose its ability to operate.

The agency also gave the school until May 15 to provide evidence the school complies with government and commission laws and regulations, accurately portrays its condition to students, faculty staff and others and that it meets other conditions.

The college also has until Aug. 1 to show it has enough money to keep operating or the commission could withdraw accreditation.

The commission and the state and federal education departments will have to approve the new partnership.

“During the review period, which may take up to a year, Keystone intends to continue uninterrupted operation of classes, as well as all other college activities and intercollegiate sports, and continues to accept and enroll freshman and transfer students for the fall 2024 semester,” the school's statement said.

The partnership agreement will demonstrate “the need for innovation and forward-thinking in today’s highly competitive educational market,” said Tim Pryle, the school’s vice president of enrollment, institutional advancement and marketing. “With a continued decline in college-age population, and other challenges, many colleges and universities across the nation, including Keystone, will continue to find themselves in financially difficult situations. The need to find and develop strong partnerships with organizations willing to share responsibilities, goals, and missions is becoming increasingly more important, even critical. We believe we have found just such an innovative and dedicated partner and are grateful to join with them on our journey.”

Borys joins WVIA News from The Scranton Times-Tribune, where he served as an investigative reporter and covered a wide range of political stories. His work has been recognized with numerous national and state journalism awards from the Inland Press Association, Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association.

You can email Borys at boryskrawczeniuk@wvia.org
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