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November 02, 2023

Villanova University to take over Cabrini campus following academic year

The agreement between the Main Line schools, which was finalized Thursday, says the grounds will maintain the Cabrini name

Education Universities
cabrini villanova finalize agreement Cabrini University/Flickr

An agreement has been finalized for Villanova University to assume ownership of Cabrini University's campus when the school closes next spring.

An agreement has been finalized for Villanova University to assume ownership of Cabrini University's campus when the school closes after the spring semester.

The acquisition, which was tentatively announced in June, comes in the wake of Cabrini's growing financial problems, which had been mounting for a decade and worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Villanova and Cabrini, both Catholic institutions, are located about two miles away from each other in Radnor Township.

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When the spring semester ends, Villanova will add Cabrini's 112-acre campus to its existing 260 acres. The campus will maintain the Cabrini name, Villanova said in a statementVillanova will preserve Cabrini's legacy and mission through several initiatives, including creating an institute focused on immigration, incorporating the service work of Cabrini’s Wolfington Center into existing Villanova student programs and establishing a “Cabrini Scholars” scholarship in conjunction with one that currently exists with Cabrini High School in New Orleans.

Villanova said it will provide resources to commemorate the history and artifacts associated with the school's namesake, Mother Cabrini. Two designated representatives from Cabrini, including at least one representative from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — who founded Cabrini University — will serve on the Villanova Board of Trustees.

“We feel confident that our agreement with Villanova will preserve the Cabrini legacy and that our work to educate both minds and hearts will be carried forth," Helen Drinan, Cabrini's president, said in a statement.

"While we plan to use this next year to engage our community to determine the best ways to fully incorporate and utilize the Cabrini campus for the benefit of students, faculty, staff and alumni, the agreement provides an opportunity to enhance our programs and further our commitment to advancing Catholic higher education," Villanova president Rev. Peter M. Donohue wrote in an email to the Villanova community.

Founded in 1957 by the Missionary Sisters, Cabrini's first class consisted only of women, with the first men being admitted in 1970. In 2016, Cabrini College became Cabrini University with the approval of its application by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Throughout its history, Cabrini has focused on social justice learning and was among the first colleges to add an undergraduate community service requirement to its curriculum.

Like other higher-education institutions, Cabrini has been faced with declining enrollment and economic uncertainty. The university has been operating with a budget deficit since 2013. In recent years it took steps to fix its financial state, like cutting academic programs and staff and eliminating senior academic leadership jobs. Despite these attempts, Cabrini could not overcome its deficits.

When news of Cabrini's impending closure broke, officials from Villanova and Cabrini said they would help Cabrini students transfer to new schools and help faculty and staff find new jobs. Last school year, Cabrini had an enrollment of 1,186 undergraduate students and 430 graduate students.

Villanova's deal with Cabrini is the latest shift in the local higher education landscape. In the past year, St. Joseph's University finalized mergers with University of the Sciences and the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. In June, Drexel and Salas universities agreed to merge.

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