Quote of the Day

Monday, June 15, 2009

Beck / Stossel

Yes, I still admire Glenn Beck. And no, I do not therefore automatically admire George Wythe University.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Three Fundamentals?

Following is a synopsis of one of the "three academic fundamentals" as documented on GWU's website

"Students are expected ... not only to write, but to publish. ...Students are required to publish, or make public, their writings. ... At first, this may consist of emails to associates, letters to the editor and posts on personal blogs. As students progress and mature in their content and writing skills, they seek out more formal venues for publication."

This begs the question: Have the GWU faculty "progress[ed] and mature[ed] in their content and writing skills" to the point where they can publish in a more formal venue?

I challenge the readers of this blog to show me even one example where a faculty member of GWU has ever published something in a third-party publication while at the school. (Groft's letters to the SUU student newspaper editor don't count!)

I'm going to go out a limb and say there haven't been any -- prove me wrong!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Behold, Coral Ridge Baptist University...

...amazingly occupying one back office in this church! (hat tip: RC)
(Photo credit: Google Street View)
2967 Huffman Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32246

Actually, by now that office is being used for something else, as the "university" is no longer operating. The building is still a church, and still has the same phone number as CRBU. The church is called Coral Ridge Baptist Ministries and you can see its website here.

More on Monticello Land

The school's acquisition of land in Monticello was more complicated than I thought!

According to an individual in Monticello (I found this on the person's blog), two families donated 200 acres to the foundation; I'm not sure where the foundation came up with the remaining 320, but at least some of it was purchased:

"Shannon[sic] Brooks from George Wythe College and his wife stopped in to check out the store. They think they might know a few families coming with the college who would be interested in buying it. We will just wait to see what all happens.

"It looks like [redacted] and [redacted] are going to donate 100 acres to the school and [redacted] and I are donating 100 acres, and the college will negotiate with [redacted] and [redacted] for the other 200 they need. We are buying 100 acres back, and then donate that to use as a tax deduction. ...We will be fencing this summer and maybe start on the pavilion."

All of this land was later annexed by the City of Monticello. You can read the annexation document here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

More Debt

It appears the school took out a second mortgage against its Cedar City building on 5/30/07. This was likely used to buy its 520-acre parcel in Monticello, which was acquired between January and June 2007.

Here's what we can surmise so far on this Monticello land. The school paid about $1 million cash, took on another $1 million in debt, and mortgaged its Cedar building for another $125,000, for a total of $2.18 million--all to buy raw land at the top of the market that may now be worth less than $1 million.

How the school expects to develop this land is beyond me. One of the biggest questions marks involves water rights.

I have done an exhaustive search of area water rights, and the school/foundation appears to own none. They own the land, but no water. In Utah, water rights are bought and sold in a way similar to real estate. Water is a requirement for development, especially in a rural area like Monticello.

Buying the Monticello land outright, with not only $1 million cash but over $1 million in debt, appears to have been a major financial blunder for the institution.

Update on Goodloe quote

It appears this blog is having at least a microscopic impact -- GW has changed the Goodloe quote on its homepage to reflect the fact that he died 11 years before it was known as George Wythe University.

A glint of transparency!

Now if they could only correct the exaggerations and obfuscations contained in the official history.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Monticello Project, Non Profit Accounting, and Accreditation

Based on GW's financial statements, it appears the school paid about $2,180,000 for its 520-acre parcel in Monticello, Utah. That comes out to about $4,200/acre. About $1.1 million of the purchase price appears to have been paid with cash (from donations) and the rest with debt.

The going price for comparable land in Monticello is currently around $1,000/acre, putting the current market value of the land at $520,000. It appears the school bought near the top of the market and may, possibly, be underwater on its loan (like so many homeowners across the country).

Given this, it's puzzling to hear Oliver DeMille say in April that "the Monticello project has especially helped our finances." He must mean that donations for that campus -- plans for which have been suspended -- are still flowing in. That's good, because those donations could be used to pay down the loan. But apparently they are being used for more than that.

Apparently at least a portion of donations for the Monticello development project are being used to subsidize the on-campus program in Cedar City. DeMille again: "[The Monticello development project] is still in the black [and has] helped provide income to help maintain our on-campus program."

This is a problem.

According to Andrew Groft, the AALE (the group from which GW is seeking accreditation) determined that the school's financials were not in line with non-profit accounting. Indeed!

Here's a quick lesson in non-profit accounting: When someone makes a donation to a non-profit and attaches a purpose to the donation, that donation becomes a "permanently restricted asset" and can only be used for the donor's purpose, even if the non-profit has other, worthy uses for it. Donations made with no restrictions are called "unrestricted assets."

Thus, a donation made to GW for "the Monticello development project" would, theoretically become a permanently restricted asset that could only be used on that project. That the Monticello project has "helped provide income to help maintain our on-campus program" is troubling to say the least, as this implies the school has been treating restricted assets as if they were unrestricted.

Based on this analysis (which is based on the facts available to this writer), it makes sense that the AALE would have concerns about the school's accounting. And if these accounting issues are to be overcome, it certainly presents a high hurdle for the school, in addition to the endowment hurdle.

The school could possibly correct this by going to the Monticello donors and asking that they revise their donations to unrestricted. Or perhaps this is not an issue at all, and DeMille misspoke when he said Monticello donations were being used to subsidize school operations.

Again, I am basing my analysis on the facts available to me. With 2008 cash expenses of $1.5 million, only $250K in the bank at 6/30/08, and enrollment at half of what it was last year (less than 100), one hopes the school will be able to scrape through this economic downturn, period -- accredited or not.

(Images from www.gw.edu)

Beck Donation

GW is reporting that Glenn Beck donated $25,000 to the school after the gala. Whether this was an in-kind donation (i.e. reduction of his usual speaking fee) or a cash donation isn't clear.

According to his management company, "Glenn Beck travels from New York, New York and requires Private Jet." Bringing him out must not have been cheap (speaking fee plus travel costs on a private jet), and it makes sense that he would cut the school a break through an in-kind donation.

Beck dining with students (Source: GWU)

"'Quite honestly, the first thing that attracted me was that to graduate you have to know all of the principles behind The Five Thousand Year Leap,' Beck said." Indeed, incoming freshmen are required to read this book before any other.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Financial Statements

A recent reader comment about the school's mortgage on its Cedar City building (despite a "no debt policy") got me wondering what the school's financial position really is. As the school is really just a DBA of the George Wythe Foundation, which is required to make annual filings with the IRS (Form 990), obtaining this information was relatively easy.

Below are the Balance Sheet and Income Statement of the George Wythe Foundation for the years 2002 - 2008. Note that in 2008, the school that "would use absolutely no debt for any reason" paid $81,000 interest on $1.47 million in debt.
Balance Sheet (click to enlarge)

Income Statement (click to enlarge)

There are several interesting things here, but what really stands out to me is the $1 million jump in debt from 2006 to 2007 (look at the balance sheet, second section, second line down). I can understand the 2005 appearance of $550K, which is likely the mortgage on the Cedar building. But this $1 million jump appears to coincide with the school's acquisition of land in Monticello, Utah.

I had always thought this was a mixture of donated and outright-purchased land, but apparently not. As they have suspended plans for a Monticello campus, this idle land does not appear to be anything but a drag on the foundation at this time. The fact that they appear to have bought it in early 2007, around the top of the real estate boom, begs the question of whether the school is in an upside-down position on it.

According to GW, the Monticello parcel is 520 acres. Let's be generous and assume that the $1 million mortgage represents the full purchase price, i.e. it was 100% financed and no donations were involved. That puts the land at $1,923 / acre. A quick perusal of the MLS puts land in Monticello at about half that.

Update on Goodloe Quote -- They Did Alter It

On page 36 of GW's 2007 catalog, I found the same William C. Goodloe quote currently used on the school's homepage, but with the word "College" instead of "University" used:

"George Wythe College is really teaching students to think because it is applying the lessons of past generations. Students attend class excited and yearning to learn; they graduate motivated and dedicated to serve. Our nation, indeed our world, needs the education George Wythe College is promoting."

So there we have it. Goodloe didn't misspeak, prophesy, or come back from the grave; GWU changed his quote. Now I don't care if the school calls itself a college, university, or constitutional convention; that's not the issue. The issue is proper, honest attribution. But proper attribution doesn't appear to matter when you're providing the kind of education the illiterate Joan of Arc received, does it?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Justice Goodloe Speaks from the Grave

GWU currently runs the following quote on its homepage, attributed to "Justice William C. Goodloe, Washington Supreme Court (Ret.)":

"Students attend class excited and yearning to learn; they graduate motivated and dedicated to serve. Our nation, indeed our world, needs the education George Wythe University is promoting."

Fine. Problem is, Goodloe died in 1997, 11 years before the school started calling itself a "university." Either Goodloe was a prophet, or GWU has modified his quote without being honest about it. Or he came back from the grave—I mean urn (he was cremated)—to give this quote. Or they made it up.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Deseret News puff piece

I was waiting for a follow-up article on the actual Glenn Beck gala, but as that hasn't appeared, here's a link to the Deseret News article on GWU, complete with sidebars!

UPDATE: Here is an indirect report on the gala.