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Santa Fe university slated to be taken over by Singapore corporation – for $1, with adjustments

The Santa Fe University of Art and Design is set to be acquired by a Singapore-based corporation. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The Santa Fe University of Art and Design is set to be acquired by a Singapore-based corporation. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – The Santa Fe University of Art and Design may be undergoing yet another change, as the school announced Wednesday that a Singapore-based private education corporation with 30 properties worldwide plans to acquire the school and make it its first institution in the United States.

The purchase price, according to a stock exchange document, is a mere $1.

The prospective new leasee, Raffles Education Corp., currently operates 30 educational sites in 13 countries, including Australia, China, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland, according to its website.

Formerly known as the College of Santa Fe, the school was poised to close before the city of Santa Fe stepped in to buy the property located near the intersection of Cerrillos Road and St. Michael’s Drive for $19.5 million in 2009.

The university has since been operated by for-profit Laureate Education Inc., which leases the property and buildings from the city. The original lease was for 27 years at $2.35 million per year.

The acquisition is contingent on Raffles shareholder approval and Raffles gaining U.S. accreditation and regulatory approvals. A spokeswoman at the university said she didn’t have details about the financial aspects of the deal.

However, a news report by The Business Times of Singapore says that Raffles Education will pay just $1 before adjustments.

The report, confirmed by a disclosure document on the Singapore Exchange website, says that SFUAD had a net tangible asset value of $6.13 million and had a net loss of $7.57 million as of June 30, 2015. The document says acquiring SFUAD allows Raffles “to expand into the United States and leverage its extensive student base in Asia.”

The $1 price is subject to adjustments, such as subtraction for any indebtedness of SFUAD at closing; additions for any cash or cash equivalents held by SFUAD at closing; subtraction of selling expenses; and additions for any working capital held by SFUAD or subtractions if working capital is less than zero

If the acquisition goes through, students are unlikely to see a difference, said SFUAD’s Rachael Lighty. “It really should be rather seamless for them,” Lighty said. “The great thing is it will offer an opportunity for them to be a part of a global network that really focuses on art and design education. Raffles is looking to build a strong brand, and that can only be good for students.”

Lighty said there are no immediate plans to make changes to the curriculum. She built into the process is gaining input from faculty and staff.

A news release quotes Chew Hua Seng, chairman, CEO and founder of the company that started its first school in 1990, as saying Raffles plans to invest in the property. “We will continue SFUAD’s current strong curriculum by adding new, expansive program offerings, strengthening student services, and investing in the physical infrastructure of the university,” he said.

Lighty said students were notified in several ways, including in person and via email. She said interim president Maria Puzziferro had multiple meetings with faculty and staff about the issue.

Few of the university’s students, said to total 900, were on campus Wednesday, with the spring semester ended. Those that were had little to say about the prospective change. “I don’t worry too much about that kind of thing,” said one woman who was in a rush to a summer class. “I just worry about my major.”

Horace Alexander Young, chairman of the contemporary music program, said he and other faculty members were informed of the deal at a meeting Wednesday morning. Young was sitting in the hallway of Benildus Hall consulting with a part-time faculty member and both were looking at the Raffles website on a computer.

Mayor Javier Gonzales expressed optimism about the new partnership in the news release.

He said he was happy to see that Raffles had other arts and design schools elsewhere. “That speaks to their interest,” he said.

Asked how he’d feel if SFUAD was renamed the Raffles University of Arts and Design (similar to the company’s other sites), Young said, “As long as my name is on the check, there’s some numbers behind it, and it clears the bank, I don’t care.”

Before it becomes official, the takeover has to be approved by Raffles shareholders, along with U.S. accreditation and regulatory agencies.