Deal to acquire Corcoran College delayed, stoking uncertainty

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Sam Johnson
Administrators are still working out details for the takeover of the Corcoran College of Art + Design, which includes about 500 students.

The University will not release details about the acquisition of the Corcoran College of Art + Design until May, keeping questions in the air about faculty contracts and tuition prices about one month past the merger’s initial deadline.

University President Steven Knapp said Friday that he remains optimistic as administrators continue to shape a deal with officials from Corcoran and the National Gallery of Art, which will determine how to manage Corcoran’s $28 million worth of buildings and assets, and its 100-member faculty core.

“There are lots of T’s to be crossed and I’s to be dotted. We are moving in the right direction. I haven’t seen any deal breakers or show stoppers,” Knapp said at the Faculty Senate meeting Friday, about two months after GW announced plans to acquire the college.

Knapp declined to comment on what caused a delay in the talks, which were slated to finish by April 7. Deborah Ziska, a spokeswoman for the National Gallery of Art, also declined to give more details.

A group of administrators, led by Dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Ben Vinson, will also need to finalize a plan to integrate the 500 students from the Corcoran College into GW’s fine arts program, which saw just 15 undergraduates earn degrees last year. Vinson has touted the merger as a way to improve GW’s arts program.

He has also said administrators would not “rush” to complete the deal.

An official from the Corcoran, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are considered confidential, said the process had been slowed by the “complexity” of the agreement with the National Gallery of Art, which will house the Corcoran’s 17,000 pieces of art.

“There are lots of T’s to be crossed and I’s to be dotted. We are moving in the right direction. I haven’t seen any deal breakers or show stoppers” – University President Steven Knapp

He said officials are still discussing big decisions about the Corcoran’s curriculum, including which classes will be taught, though he declined to provide more specific details about those talks.

“Students want a really clear picture, but with something this complex, we can’t have a clear picture yet,” he said.

Media Credit: Jordan Leon | Staff Photographer
Michael Schiffer, a sophomore at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, has met with Student Association leaders to plan out details for the school’s acquisition.

Negotiators must also decide key details about possible tuition increases for current Corcoran students when the art school links up with GW, the Corcoran official said.

He said future Corcoran students who are accepted after next year may see “modest tuition increases” – bringing them closer to GW’s sticker price of $60,000 a year. Tuition at the Corcoran this year was about $17,000 less than GW’s. However, 2012 graduates of the art school finished with an average debt load of about $45,000 – about 35 percent more than the average GW graduate.

Lorenzo Cardim, a senior at Corcoran, said many students are afraid of the potential costs of their education once the merger occurs. Officials have also not released details about financial aid.

“There’s fear that exists because it’s like, ‘Oh God, we can barely afford it as it is.’” Cardim said.

While GW has vowed to honor Corcoran faculty contracts through next year, professors say the lack of details about the merger has left them anxious about their futures.

So far, professors have been told they will need to reapply for their positions after next year.

Joey Mánlapaz, a GW alumna and associate professor who has taught drawing at the Corcoran for six years, said the uncertainty has created a “tenuous” situation for professors. She also said she has participated in weekly faculty meetings but has not been involved in negotiations.

“I am a little nervous about my position because I don’t know what is going to happen. I hope I have a job. There are still a lot of questions, and no one has been very forthcoming,” Mánlapaz said.

Corcoran professor Bill Newman, who has taught painting at the school since 1973, said the school’s faculty met with top administrators last week and said the professors seemed positive about the merger, despite not knowing details.

“Everyone would like to be more specific, but I don’t think there are more specifics that can come from the Corcoran. I’m not sure sure GW really has specifics, either, because everyone is so tied up in the agreement being signed,” he said.

– Zaid Shoorbajee and Brandon Lee contributed reporting.

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