Cost of a College – Priceless

Claims that Fordham University had been approached by a Muslim cultural institute to create a mosque and school on Marymount’s Tarrytown campus appear unfounded at this time.

imagesThe Real Estate broker, GHP of White Plains, New York, told this publication in early October, that to date only 2 tours have been offered to prospective buyers and neither was to an organization seeking to turn Butler Hall into a mosque. The 25-acre campus of the former Marymount College and Fordham University’s Graduate Center is zoned R-20 or 1/2 acre single family residential. No asking price has been established by Fordham or GHP for the property and its buildings.

In speaking with Bob Howe, Fordham’s Director of Communications, he reaffirmed that the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM) sisters and their convent would not be affected by the future sale of the campus.

It was Marymount College that originally approached Fordham to ask that the two institutions be consolidated. Fordham agreed to take over Marymount’s debt which was over $10,000,000. Fordham then initiated $6,000,000 in capital improvements. Even with the cash infusion, Fordham has spent $26,400,000 over and above their normal operating expenses as a result of the merger, according to Howe. Fordham’s President Joseph M. McShane said, "When Fordham consolidated with Marymount, the University did so with every expectation that we could make this a great success. We have come to the sad conclusion that we could no more succeed than had the RSHM in their valiant efforts to keep Marymount College open."

The vacant women’s college is reflective of a larger picture in higher education, Howe stated. Declines in enrollment driven by social, cultural and demographic changes over the past 30 years, along with higher operating expenses, conspired against the single-sex institution. In 1970 there were 230 women’s colleges in the United States. By 2000 only 63 remained. Even with a slight increase in enrollment, the first year attrition rate at Marymount remained at 50% and one-half of the freshman women used their first year at Marymount to transfer to other institutions.

Fordham is currently working to move all of their Tarrytown operations, which include the Graduate Schools of Business Administration, Education and Social Services, to 400 Westchester Avenue in Harrison by September of 2008.

As reported in the Summer issue of this publication, Fordham officials have also met with Tarrytown’s Mayor. Tarrytown’s Village Administrator, Steve McCabe, told this publication that the Village Code will be amended to include certain buildings at Marymount. By doing so these buildings will be protected by landmark status. Chapter 191 of the Code referenced those characteristics that belong to Historical Districts and Landmarks, i.e., "In order to promote the general welfare through preservation and protection of buildings and structures of historical and architectural interest, the Board of Trustees may, from time to time, enact local laws creating historic districts and historical landmarks." To aid Village officials with the process, consultants (TKS Resources of Long Island) will be retained.

There is the saying that nature abhors a vacuum. With all the unused space available at Marymount, School Board Superintendent, Howard Smith, has made arrangements to park school busses in vacant parking lots. In addition, two floors of one building have been rented for the school system’s Preschool and Even Start early literacy program.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento